Native herbivores are grazing native plants again! We have recently purchased American bison here at Hamilton Native Outpost. Read about how we thought the bison reacted to their new native home.
It was a hot July day as a few of the crew members climbed in the pickup truck and drove to a nearby field where the native warm season grass, Big Bluestem, was planted. They were headed there to unload the 12 bison, sometimes referred to as buffalo, that Hamilton Native Outpost had recently purchased.
As the large animals with shoulders that stand as tall as the average man were getting restless and eager to exit the trailer, the men delivering them informed the crew that the bison would run for miles and the ordinary barbed wire fence would not stop them.
Colt, one of the crew members, felt that the bison wouldn’t go too far, and he thought to himself that the woven wire boundary fence was quite sturdy; surely the bison wouldn’t try to run through it. But the men assured him that the bison would bust right through most fences.
Dawson, another member of the crew, was standing with a camera on the back of the pickup truck in the field waiting to capture the moment of the bison entering their new home as one of the delivery guys shouted, “Get out of there, these bison could flip that truck!” Dawson wasn’t really scared, but he hadn’t been around bison before, so he found a safer place to stand.
The crew was anxious to see how the bison would react to the native warm season grass since these bison had only seen non-native species like Fescue. Before settlement American bison roamed the grasslands consuming native plants. The bison provided food and other necessities for the American Indians and benefited the grasslands before they were overhunted after European settlers arrived. Would these bison recognize the native grasses as home?
The time had come to release the bison into their new home. One of the men who had brought the bison opened the doors, and after a moment, the bison thundered off the trailer! However, what happened next was a surprising observation. The bison, paying no mind to the truck in the field, only ran about half the length of a football field before stopping and putting their heads down to graze the Big Bluestem.
The men were shocked that the bison were so calm, being that they had just entered an unfamiliar environment, but the bison didn’t act like the environment was unfamiliar – maybe because it was exactly what their ancestors knew! The crew observed that the bison felt right at home in the native warm season grassland!
The crew members at Hamilton Native Outpost are excited, and we will be studying how the diverse native grasslands react to this native herbivore and what the bison prefer eating. We have already noticed that the bison are looking healthier and gaining weight after spending a few weeks on native grass instead of the Fescue that they had previously been consuming. In the past, this herd of bison was moved by ATVs. We were told that they could be wild, but from some of the crew members’ observations they seem quite tame and have been moved from pasture to pasture by someone walking behind them.