Conservancy transfers bison to Iowa
Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 04:16 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy in South Dakota transferred 30 bison from its Lame Johnny Creek Ranch to a native prairie in western Iowa to help conserve a rare bison population known for its genetic integrity. The bison were sent to the Conservancy’s Broken Kettle Grassland Preserve in the Loess Hills. The Loess Hills is Iowa’s largest contiguous native prairie and bison will help return the area to a more natural condition.
These bison originated from the Wind Cave National Park herd and are considered to be an unhybridized herd. There is no evidence of cattle genes in this population as determined by current DNA testing techniques.
By transferring 30 of the 85 bison from its Lame Johnny Creek Ranch, located about 30 miles south of Rapid City, the Conservancy was able to reintroduce bison of the highest genetic quality to a native grassland in western Iowa.
The move also serves as insurance against a catastrophic event. If something happened to the Wind Cave bison population in South Dakota, bison with the same genetic integrity would remain in another state.
More than 150 years ago, bison were a natural and integral part of the vast tallgrass prairie ecosystem in North America. Bison grazing provides a “disturbance” which allows for a more diverse mix of prairie species and a diverse structure critical for the survival of the animals dependent on prairie habitat. Today, less than one percent of the original tallgrass prairie remains; making it one of the most endangered ecosystems on the continent.
“Bison provide a different effect on the ground. We expect a more wide-spread disturbance pattern with better pasture utilization,” said Scott Moats, the Conservancy’s Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve manager. “With bison, we’ll see a change in the plant community. Our prairie is ready for them.”
MNN is working with The Nature Conservancy to bring you state-by-state environmental information.
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