Every fall, the staff at The Nature Conservancy’s Dunn Ranch Prairie gear up for an exciting – and important – day: the bison roundup. “The roundup is held each year so we can give vaccinations, sort off any excess animals that we want to sell, and check on the overall health of the herd. We vaccinate for pink eye, worms, blackleg, brucellosis and other common bovine diseases,” said Randy Arndt, The Conservancy’s Grand River Grasslands Manager.
The roundup is also a time where data can be collected from, or equipment added to, the bison for research studies. For example, in past years, the Conservancy has added cameras to the bison collars for vegetation studies or GPS devices to record movement of the herd. This year, tail hair follicles were collected from all the bison for genetic analysis. “Our bison originally came from Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, which is a genetically pure bison herd. Texas A&M University is going to study the genetic diversity of our herd at Dunn Ranch Prairie and compare it to the genetic diversity of the original Wind Cave herd to see if our management is maintaining all the genetic diversity of the Wind Cave lineage,” said Arndt.
Check out this video from the 2017 bison roundup to see the staff - and bison - in action!
Staff and volunteers spend weeks preparing for the annual bison roundup at Dunn Ranch Prairie.
Bison are moved through holding pens in small groups.
Bison are moved into a circular enclosure called a tub. A gate (left) is slowly moved around the tub to herd bison into individual chutes.
Bison are moved one at a time into the squeeze chute, which safely holds the bison still while staff administer routine vaccinations and tests.
The bison are scanned for an id chip, which gives key information about each animal.
After each bison is identified, conservation assistant Hilary Haley (front left) relays key data to the veterinarian and the handlers.
Some bison are fitted with tracking collars to learn about their grazing habits and other behaviors. The research is part of a project funded by the Committee for Research and Exploration of the National Geographic Society, researchers from Wildlife Intel, the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and Washington University in St. Louis.
After just a few minutes in the squeeze chute, the bison are released into the corral.
The bison are then released back onto the open prairie, where they are benefiting native plants, birds, insects, and other animals.