The Iowa Nature Conservancy is rounding up the bison at a northwest Iowa preserve today to give them their vaccinations. The organization brought 28 bison to Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve in 2008 — and now the herd has grown to 275.
The Nature Conservancy’s Graham McGaffin says that’s a little more than they’d like to have, so they’re selling 72 bison to producers after they get their checkups and vaccinations. “If we let the herd grow without maintaining their size, we could overstress and overgraze the preserve,” McGaffin explains.
Bison were hunted to the brink of extinction in North America and McGaffin says they’re a comeback success story.
“The species itself is just tremendously resilient, tough, and just perfect for this environment,” he says. “It’s one of those conservation success stories that it’s fun to reflect on as a lifelong conservationist because it shows the good things that can happen through continued effort.”
The bison are genetically pure at the Plymouth County reserve, which means there’s no evidence that they have any cattle genes mixed in. They were brought to Broken Kettle to help control invasive species. Their grazing also helps open up the grass so plant species can grow and provide habitat to birds and butterflies.
(By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio/Nature Conservancy Photo.)