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21 April 2014 / leggypeggy

Bison—beefing up their numbers in Nebraska

Bison

Bison at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge

Poor John and I were lucky enough to visit the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge when we travelled northwest across central Nebraska from Kearney to Valentine.

Established in 1912 by President Theodore Roosevelt, this 19,000-acre refuge is part of a national network of land set aside specifically for the preservation of birds, bison and elk. So far, more than 540 refuges have been established.

Fort Niobrara National Wildlife  Refuge

The Fort Niobrara refuge is doing its job. More than 230 species of bird are found there, along with 350 bison and about 100 elk. The Niobrara River runs through the refuge, bringing plenty of water and nourishment for all the ‘beasts’.

We saw a meandering herd of bison in the refuge. Based on what I’ve read, I think we were there in the mating season—June to August. The bulls weren’t showing signs of aggression, but they were with the herd. Apparently they are solitary during other months.

Bison were also featured at Woolaroc in Oklahoma. I’m pretty sure Woolaroc has some bison on site, but we didn’t see any on the hoof. But there’s an excellent display of information about the bison’s history and plight.

The bison info is heartbreaking. No one knows exactly how many bison there were before the main slaughter began in the 1800s, but estimates range from 30 to 200 million. Travellers in the Great Plains were always impressed by the numbers of bison they saw, and guesstimates reckon there were still 60 million in 1800 and 30 million in 1830.

Bison hides and bones were big business in the later 1800s and the biggest year was 1874, when more than seven million pounds of bones were shipped to eastern markets.

It makes me proud that Nebraska is doing its bit to keep bison on the planet. Oh, and we loved seeing the prairie dogs too.

Prairie dog

Prairie dogs rule the Nebraska plains

18 Comments

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  1. Chris Gee / Apr 21 2014 10:14 pm

    The amount of animals around before we stepped into the picture is astounding. In the 1980 I saw a Topi migration in South Sudan, there more that the wildebeest migration and around the same time there was a migration of small finches going north towards Egypt – the birds were a continual massive series of flocks overhead, all day. There must have been many millions of them

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    • leggypeggy / Apr 21 2014 10:48 pm

      Oh Chris, you are so right. It’s impossible to imagine what the long-gone migration numbers must have been like.

      Like

  2. weggieboy / Apr 22 2014 3:49 am

    My favorite part of prairie dog towns is the enhanced chances one will see burrowing owls standing on the rims of the prairie dog holes. Typically, these will be burrowing owl owlets waiting for a yummy grasshopper meal from the parents.

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    • leggypeggy / Apr 22 2014 1:40 pm

      I’ve seen burrowing owls, but never in Nebraska. I’ll have to watch more closely the next time.

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  3. David / Apr 22 2014 1:47 pm

    Another very nice story about Nebraska, Peggy! Great work as usual!

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    • leggypeggy / Apr 22 2014 1:49 pm

      Thanks Dave. We were so pleased to see the bison.

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  4. gpcox / Apr 22 2014 11:26 pm

    I’m glad to see the bison back as well. Sounds like you had a great time.

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    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2014 8:01 am

      I always like dragging Poor John to see something new!

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  5. Mungai and the Goa Constrictor / Apr 23 2014 12:10 am

    It’s sad and shocking when you think about how many animals we have taken off this planet. Shame on humans! Good news for bison here, though 🙂

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    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2014 8:03 am

      I was thinking of you as I wrote this. Your blog does such an excellent job of telling people about the plight of so many species.

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      • Mungai and the Goa Constrictor / Apr 24 2014 10:49 pm

        Thank you so much, Peggy. I have linked your Bison article here to my American Bison post. It’s always good to be able to share good news. Love the title, BTW. ~ Amelia 🙂

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      • leggypeggy / Apr 25 2014 8:35 am

        Thanks Amelia.

        Like

  6. Sy S. / Apr 24 2014 9:54 am

    FYI-
    The Bronx Zoo within NYC played an important roll in the Bison’s recovery….In the early twentieth century, the American Bison Society—originally founded at the Bronx Zoo—reintroduced bison to reserves in the West. This saved the species from extinction.
    http://tinyurl.com/m7msgt6
    The Wildlife Conservation Society- In 1907, 15 Bronx Zoo bison boarded railway cars and wagon trains headed for Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountain Preserve. These early pioneers were charged with an historic mission: to help the American bison recover on the Western Plains.

    SyS.

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    • leggypeggy / Apr 24 2014 12:57 pm

      Oh wow, Sy, I had no idea about the society’s link with the Bronx Zoo. Thanks so much for sharing this info. I love the Bronx Zoo and remember going there for the first time as a very young child.

      Like

  7. dmill96 / Feb 21 2016 5:37 am

    If you happen by there again check out nearby Smith Falls State Park, the largest waterfall in Nebraska (being used to Yosemite waterfalls it’s tiny, but nice to have something). And if you get to western North Dakota the bison there are numerous and seem to be in a very natural environment rather than a preserve.

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    • leggypeggy / Feb 21 2016 8:15 am

      Thanks for these tips. Poor John and I hope to spend a Northern Hemisphere summer touring national and state parks in the USA.

      Like

Trackbacks

  1. Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 95 – The American Bison | Mungai and the Goa Constrictor
  2. Arbor Day—in the US it began in Nebraska | Where to next?

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