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A Home Where the Buffalo Roam

New grassland conservancies are giving a home for the bison to roam, as they once did before going nearly extinct during the 19th century.

  • Bison roaming Nachusa prairie in Franklin Grove IL.

    Image 1 of 3

    Photo: Charles Larry

    Bison roam Nachusa prairie in Franklin Grove, IL.

  • Bison herd wallow in Nachusa prairie

    Image 2 of 3

    Photo: Charles Larry

    Bison herd wallowing in Nachusa prairie.

  • Mother bison and calf at Nachusa Prairie

    Image 3 of 3

    Photo: Charles Larry

    Mother bison and calf graze at Nachusa Prairie.

Prairie Home Companion

The prairie once covered millions of acres of the U.S. populated with millions of bison. Bison and prairies are the bread and butter of the U.S. but humans changed that after slaughtering nearly every bison and planting the prairies with crops.

Years of research has proven that bringing the prairie back has many benefits to the environment including increased diversity of species, healthier soil, purification of water and pollution reduction.

This research has also told us the importance of having the bison on the prairie…and they’re finally here!

The first wild bison population was just introduced to Nachusa Grasslands, a Nature Conservancy site in North Central Illinois about two hours west of Chicago.

Bison Bounty

Bison have agricultural and environmental benefits.

First, bison are very lean and don’t need to be pumped with horomones to become giant burgers, that’s just who they are. Unlike cows, bison have heads shaped like tiny plows, perfect for winter-feeding, no corn necessary! They just need to graze in diverse prairies (which are really good for the environment).

Second, bison roll around in prairies like dogs do in grass. The only difference is, they are thousands of pounds and roll in the prairie so much that they create “wallows” or bare dirt patches. This allows plants that like disturbed areas to grow, and thus create biodiversity.

Finally, poop and bison carcasses deliver nutrients to the soil, replenishing the prairie with delicious plant nutrients.

Learn more:

Friends of Nachusa Grasslands

Efroymson Restoration at Kankakee Sands (Nature.org)

Habitat 2030

Kim Elsenbroek

I am a trained scientist aspiring to communicate science to the general public. I received my B.S. in Botany from Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) in spring of 2012 and my M.S. from Indiana University Bloomington. I have conducted research in sustainability, ecological restoration, invasive species control and outreach/education. I have worked with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, McHenry County Conservations District, SIUC, IUB and now the Nature Conservancy.

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