North American Prairie Conference


Date of this Version



Published in Prairie Pioneers: Ecology, History and Culture: Proceedings of the Eleventh North American Prairie Conference, August 7-11, 1988, Lincoln, Nebraska (Lincoln, NE 1989).


The utilization of a tall grass prairie remnant by a small bison (Bison bison) herd is described. Three bulls and six cows were introduced to a 257 ha section of Prairie State Park, Liberal, Missouri in 1985. Between 1985 and March 1988, ten calves were born; four cows and a bull were introduced to the herd in 1988. Since March 1986, the behavior of the herd has been observed three times per week, year-round. The portion of the herd using mowed fire breaks or burned or unburned portions was determined at ten-minute intervals; for 3,249 observations over 213 days. In addition, the daily location of the herd within the 257 ha was noted. The herd used fescue (Festuca spp.) areas during winter and native grass areas during summer. Individuals spent more time on mowed fire breaks than other areas, possibly because those areas have the most new shoots. Burned areas were also preferred, perhaps because fire reduced brambles (Rubus spp.) and ticks. The herd cut a few trails traversing ridges and created about 25 wallowing sites in areas adjacent to rubbing features. These had been sparsely vegetated before. At this time, there has been little noticeable effect of the herd on the prairie.