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What's Next for Bison on the Prairie?

Question: The American Prairie bison herd is already ten years old! What does the future look like? What are your challenges?

Answer: During the aerial survey of the herd this fall, I counted 620 bison. That’s a big change from the original 16 animals that came to the prairie in 2005 – and something that wouldn’t be possible without your support. Because of this growth, we’re now at a point where the 31,000-acre Sun Prairie region is near capacity, so American Prairie staff have been busy building an additional home on the 22,000-acre Sun Prairie North property. (That meant replacing 33 miles of fence with our wildlife-friendly specifications and completely removing 15 miles of interior fencing.) Our short-term population goal is to reach 1,000 animals by 2018, with the ultimate goal of reaching 10,000 bison when there’s enough land to support a large herd and its seasonal movements. The good news is that we’re on track, and we continue to monitor and ensure herd health and genetics along the way.

Looking ahead, we’ll maintain our focus on habitat accumulation so that the herd always has enough room and can roam unimpeded, interacting with the land as only a keystone species can. We also continue to monitor Montana’s bison management plans and support the possibility of bison on the neighboring Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge – even volunteering to donate and manage those animals within a wildlife-friendly fence as an experiment. You can learn more about this topic and other bison-related progress in our latest bison report.

Damien Austin, Reserve Supervisor