Photo of the Week – August 15, 2013

I took my two sons up to the Niobrara Valley Preserve earlier this week for one last outing before school started.  It was fun to see the Preserve through their eyes.  While I was looking at impacts from last year’s fire and grazing and noting ecological interactions between sunflowers and insects, the boys were chasing toads and just having fun bouncing along through the sandhills.

The big selling point to get the kids to tag along was the promise of seeing bison.  After driving around the 10,000 acre pasture for more than two hours without a bison sighting, I was getting a little nervous about keeping that promise.  Just as I was about to give up, the radio crackled and Richard (our bison manager) called to say he’d spotted bison at the opposite end of the pasture while he was working on something else.  About half an hour later, we found them and the trip was officially a success.

Here are a few photos from the two days:

My son John, standing at the welcome sign for the Preserve.

My son John, standing at the welcome sign for the Preserve.  Did I mention there were some sunflowers blooming in the sandhills this year?

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John spotted this turtle along the road into the Preserve, so we stopped to have a closer look.

John spotted this turtle along the road into the Preserve, so we stopped to have a closer look.

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Here's Daniel, standing among the weedy regrowth under the burned out pines north of the river.

Here’s Daniel, standing among the weedy regrowth under the burned out pines north of the river.

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The Niobrara river from a high vantage point.

The Niobrara river from a high vantage point.

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It was a relief when we finally popped over a hill and saw bison spread out below us.

It was a relief when we finally popped over a hill and saw bison spread out below us.

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Bison

The bison seemed sleek and healthy, clearly thriving in the abundant regrowth after last year’s wildfire.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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6 Responses to Photo of the Week – August 15, 2013

  1. John I. Blair says:

    Wonderful photos! What memories your sons will have to treasure. Thanks for sharing these, especially from those of us who can’t travel to such beautiful landscapes any more.

  2. James McGee says:

    Chris, Is the Niobrara a good place to fish?

    • Chris Helzer says:

      James, I know they catch catfish – not sure what else. I haven’t ever tried.

      • James McGee says:

        Hi Chris, After I asked the above question I decided to do some searches on the internet. I found the following article. It reminded me of a story line from the TV show “Dallas.”
        http://watchdog.org/58904/dispute-with-neighbors-comes-back-to-haunt-fischer/
        I was quite surprised by the story in the above link. When I was visiting that area everybody seemed exceptionally friendly. Fishing must be big money up that way. I never did fish the Niobrara, but I did canoe it twice. There were lots of no trespassing signs. That really is too bad. Not merely because people feel they have to put them up, but also because they are so darn ugly.
        From a conservation standpoint, tributaries of the Niobrara have (or had) some of the only occurrences of glacial relict fish species in Nebraska. As an ecologist, I thought this might interest you. Although you are probably already aware of these old collections.

        James

  3. Paul Brewer says:

    Thanks for the continuing series of “recovery” photos – - more like a rebirth for some areas I am sure.

  4. Lisa Reynoldson says:

    My family and I took a trip to Yellowstone in July and as we were traveling through Custer State Park at night a 2000 lb. male bison decided to charge our vehicle (according to witnesses). We were going 30 mph and upon impact the Bison flew up and over our Expedition landing in the ditch. The Bison died, the Expedition was totaled and our lttle girl got to take a ride in the Ambulance to the nearest Emergency room. Long story short, we finished our vacation with only minor injuries. I was told that it is common that Bison “get grumpy” and charge vehicles.

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