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Kyran Kunkel
Senior Scientist

Dr. Kyran Kunkel, wildlife biologist and American Prairie Reserve’s Director of Wildlife Restoration and Science, is a familiar face for visitors and science partners. After more than a decade of involvement in the building of the Reserve and the region’s wildlife populations, Kyran officially joined APR in 2014. His role involves working with our staff and a wide range of collaborators to restore the natural abundance of the Northern Plains through creating the largest wildlife reserve and wildlife restoration project in US history. This includes restoring APR lands according to the Freese Scale for Grassland Biodiversity, which he co-created with Dr. Curt Freese and Dr. Sam Fuhlendorf, and directing an innovative program of research, conservation, and citizen science activity.

Kyran is well suited to this role, having been a part of the project since his first trip to the Reserve in 2003. Before joining our staff full-time, Dr. Kunkel worked with American Prairie Reserve as a contractor to initiate our bison restoration program through collaborative efforts with World Wildlife Fund, where he served as a Senior Fellow. He has led a wide range of efforts including cougar conservation, swift fox reintroduction, wolf research, and tracking pronghorn migration routes. Earlier in his career, he studied moose, wolverines, and grizzly and black bears as the regional wildlife biologist for the Alaska Region of the National Park Service. He has also served as the Senior Biologist for the Turner Endangered Species Fund, where he led the largest and most successful bighorn sheep restoration project ever completed in New Mexico. Kyran remains as an Affiliate Professor in the Wildlife Biology Program at the University of Montana. He is also a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution.

“We rarely get to create and build something big and important and lasting for conservation. It is a privilege in this era of just trying to stop the losses.”



  • Kunkel, K., H. Shafqat, and A. Khatiwada. 2016.  Livestock insurance; are incentive/reward programs working as envisioned. Pages 173-177 in T. McCarthy and D. Mallon editors. Snow leopards of the world. Elsevier Publishing. (The book was the winner of the Best Book of the year by the Wildlife Society)

  • Bradley, E., H. Robinson, E. Bangs, K. Kunkel, M. Jimenez, J. Gude, and T. Grimm. 2015.  Effects of wolf removal on livestock depredation recurrence and wolf recovery in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Journal of Wildlife Management 79:1337-1346.

  • Sasmal, I, Honness, K., Bly, K., McCaffery, M., Kunkel, K., Jenks, J., Phillips, M. 2015. Release method evaluation for swift fox reintroductions at Bad River Ranches in South Dakota. Restoration Ecology 23:491-498.

  • Robinson, H., T. Ruth, J. Gude, D. Choate, R., DeSimone, M. Hebblewhite, K. Kunkel, R. Matchett, M. Mitchell, K. Murphy. 2015. Linking Resource Selection and Mortality Modeling for Population. Estimation of Mountain Lions in Montana. Ecological Modeling 312:11-25.

  • Freese, C. H., Fuhlendorf, S. D., & Kunkel, K. (2014). A Management Framework for the Transition from Livestock Production toward Biodiversity Conservation on Great Plains Rangelands. Ecological Restoration, 32(4):358-368.

  • Kunkel, K.E., T.C. Atwood, T.K. Ruth, D.H. Pletscher, and M.G. Hornocker. 2013. Assessing wolves and cougars as conservation surrogates. Animal Conservation 16:32-40.

  • Kohl, M. T., Krausman, P. R., Kunkel, K., & Williams, D. M. (2013). Bison Versus Cattle: Are They Ecologically Synonymous? Rangeland Ecology and Management, 66(6), 721-731.

  • Sanderson, E. W., K. H. Redford, B. Weber, K. Aune, D. Baldes, J. Berger, D. Carter, C. Curtin, J. Curtin, J. Derr, S. Dobrott, E. Fearn, C. Fleener, S. Forrest, C. Gerlach, C. C. Gates, J. E. Gross, P. Gogan, S. Grassel, J. A. Hilty, M. Jensen, K. Kunkel. D. Lammers, R. List, K. Minkowski, T. Olson, C. Pague, P. B. Robertson, and B. Stephenson. 2008. The ecological future of the North American bison: conceiving long-term, large-scale conservation of wildlifeConservation Biology 22:252–266.

  • Freese, C. H., K. E. Aune, D. P. Boyd, J. N. Derr, S. C. Forrest, C. C. Gates, P. J. P. Gogan, S. M. Grassel, N. D. Halbert, K. Kunkel, and K. H. Redford. 2007. Second chance for the plains bison. Biological Conservation 136:175–184.

  • Atwood, T. C., Gese, E. M., & Kunkel, K. E. (2007). Comparative patterns of predation by cougars and recolonizing wolves in Montana’s Madison Range. The Journal of wildlife management, 71(4), 1098-1106.

  • Bradley, E. H., Pletscher, D. H., Bangs, E. E., Kunkel, K. E., Smith, D. W., Mack, C. M., … & Jimenez, M. D. (2005). Evaluating wolf translocation as a nonlethal method to reduce livestock conflicts in the northwestern United States. Conservation Biology, 19(5), 1498-1508.

  • Kunkel, K., & Pletscher, D. H. (2001). Winter hunting patterns of wolves in and near Glacier National Park, MontanaThe Journal of wildlife management, 520-530.

  • Truett, J. C., Phillips, M., Kunkel, K., & Miller, R. (2001). Managing bison to restore biodiversity. Great Plains Research: A Journal of Natural and Social Sciences, 541.