In Spring 2013, American Prairie staff members and biologist Kyran Kunkel set out to expand our bison tracking efforts with an additional GPS collar. With more than 14,000 acres to roam, the prairie's bison population moves widely across the land. GPS collars are one way that we track these movements, and the information helps us make management decisions, like needed fence improvements.
Because bison herds are matriarchal, collars are placed on older, lead females that make decisions for the larger herd. Over time, the bison will naturally divide into family groupings as the population continues to grow. Data from multiple collars will tell us about these sub-herd interactions as well as their travel across the landscape – a story that teaches us what terrain and vegetation bison prefer.
The GPS collars also inform ongoing science projects, allowing us to measure the time the bison spend on prairie dog towns and the area affected by our prescribed burn. After we expand the herd's range to 31,000 acres this summer, we'll even be able to observe how the bison change their grazing as they explore the additional acreage.