This week, we worked on the first of our two annual bison roundups at the Niobrara Valley Preserve. Our roundups allow us to manage herd size and also to vaccinate and put ID tags on the new calves we’re keeping in the herd. We were working the animals from our west herd this week, which live in a 12,000 acre pasture. Our staff had spent a month or so drawing them into a relatively small “trap pasture” and then we pushed them from there into the corral on Monday. During a break in the action, I took a few bison portraits while they milled around the corral, waiting for their turn to move through the alleys.
After the bison were released back into the trap pasture, I drove slowly out among them to get some more photos. I was amazed at how calmly they reacted to my presence so shortly after they had been in the corral.
What do the bison eat in that pasture this time of year, Chris?
I like the way the one in the last photo is looking down, right at your camera.
Great question. There is a lot of sun sedge (Carex heliophila) and some Kentucky bluegrass that is still green, but I think they persist for most of the winter on cured grasses. My understanding is that the shorter grasses (gramas, etc.) hold more of their nutrition than many of the taller grasses (big blue, indiangrass, etc.) but it still looks a lot like eating cardboard. And yes, the bison looks like she was looking at me. I hope she wasn’t, actually. I was trying to be surreptitious so as not to stress out the animals in the pen.
Great photos. What becomes of the bison de-selected to return to their pasture?
Hi Sherry, We have a sealed bid auction each year, so they go to whomever bids the most. Want a bison? : )
I have a story about an Arizona farmer who bought a single bull buffalo, just for show, but went through all the fences when he saw some ‘sexy’ hereford cows next door. Well you can guess the rest of the story and the struggle the farmer had to then sell and transport the bull out of his pasture! HAH!
(should post warnings to ‘Amateurs”)
Kudos to the staff who plan and conduct the event! I know some of the staff who do the same work on the Indiana bison herd. There is a lot of work that needs be done to round up the herd, manage the disputes, tag the new calves, do shots, etc. A long day’s work for the staff (after a lot of planning).
Probably a good idea on the last photo , to be outside the pen!
I thoroughly enjoyed your bison photos. I was at Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge in June, 2914; is it adjacent to Niobrara Valley Preserve? Is the bison herd at the Wildlife Refuge totally separate from the NC herds?
Thanks John. Fort Niobrara is just a little west of us, but very close. The herds are completely separate, yes.
Thank you very much.
Your beautiful photographs have brought to mind George Catlin who painted the Plains Indians, and buffalo.
Do you know if any of these bison are being purchased by the indigenous tribes that are trying to build their own herds?
I’m not sure, Karen. I think at least some of those tribes are trying to find animals with the Wind Cave herd genetics, which we don’t have. At least in recent years, I don’t think any of our animals have gone to Tribes.
Superb unusual look at eye location on a prey animal in your last photo, from 2018. What could you say about the angles of vision of bison – how far ahead and/or behind might there be binocular vision, or is it ever achieved? I am challenged with double vision these days and wonder how their brain might handle it – too bad they do not converse in human language to offer their comment…. just kidding. Chase