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Bison at Kankakee Sands

Herd of Bison Roam the Prairie of Northwest Indiana

In October 2016, the Nature Conservancy introduced a herd of 23 bison to its Kankakee Sands prairie restoration project.

The Nature Conservancy has an extensive bison conservation program, with herds now found on 13 preserves throughout the country. Kankakee Sands is the easternmost Conservancy preserve where the animals roam.

play video Bison at Kankakee Sands: Pioneers of the Prairie Landscape

Bison at Kankakee Sands

The Nature Conservancy brought a herd of 23 bison to roam on more than 1,000 acres at Kankakee Sands.

Visiting the Bison

Of course, everyone wants to know: Can we actually see the bison? The viewing experience, too, has been part of the planning. Visitors are able to see the bison easily and safely.

A viewing area has been established just off U.S. Highway 41, which runs through Kankakee Sands. Its slight elevation provides a natural “platform” where wildlife viewers should be able to see the bison grazing on the prairie.

Bison-in-Newton-County-map

play video Newton County Bison

Newton County Bison

Blogs on the Bison

Feeling in a Rut? Visit the Bison this Fall at Kankakee Sands

  Photo by Chris Helzer @ The Nature Conservancy If lately you've been feeling like you're in a rut, then stop by Kankakee Sands...
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Nature Notes: Kankakee Sands Bison are Changing It Up

Photo by Scott Johnsen My drive to work involves one stop sign and a herd of bison. It hasn’t always been that way… My commute used...
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Nature's Surprises - Bison Calf Born in November

“Hey, whattaya know, we got ourselves a cinnamon!” April and May are the typical calving months for our Kankakee Sand bison. So, you can...
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Nature Notes: Bison, Facing the Winter Head On

  Ok, I think my family is ready. We have the woodstove going and plenty of firewood to keep the house warm; our winter coats, hats, mittens, and...
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Nature Notes: It's Bison Calving Time at Kankakee Sands!

Photo copyright Gary Fua It’s that exciting time of the year again, the time when bison calves are born on the prairie. On the morning of...
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Nature Notes: Pearly Whites - Bison's Grazing Habits

Bison have been grazing the prairies at Kankakee Sands for two and a half years now, and I still find them as intriguing and fascinating as the first...
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Nature Notes: The Sounds of Bison

By: Alyssa Nyberg, Efroymson Restoration at Kankakee Sands But what will it sound like? I can
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Ten bison calves born at Kankakee Sands

  Photo by Jason Whalen at Big Foot Media It feels as though we've waited an eternity for the answer, and now we have it.... ten bison...
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About the Bison Conservation Program

Historically, bison roamed the Indiana prairie, although likely in small herds in contrast to the huge herds on the Great Plains. Explorers and travelers reported seeing bison in the state in the 1600s and 1700s. In 1824, a traveler encountered a lone bison near the preserve’s location, and shot it. The animals were extirpated from the state by 1830.

Native habitat hasn't fared much better in the state: More than 99 percent of Indiana’s prairies have been lost to agriculture, development and lack of prescribed fire.

Since 1996, the Conservancy and partners have been working to restore a significant slice of prairie at Kankakee Sands. Nearly 6,500 acres have been planted with 600 native plants. Like its own “field of dreams,” once those plants were in the soil, the native wildlife followed.

But planting prairie plants is just one part of restoration. The prairie evolved with grazers and fire. Conservancy stewards manage some of the preserve with patch-burn grazing, where cows follow areas burned with prescribed fire, mimicking natural prairie processes.

Now bison have been added to the management plan.

The bison herd roams over 1,000 acres at Kankakee Sands. “From their horns to their hooves, bison are excellent prairie managers,” said Tony Capizzo, land steward at Kankakee Sands. “It is a keystone species in the prairie landscape. From the plants that it grazes on to the wallows it creates when it’s rolling on the ground, the bison’s behaviors should increase the plant and animal diversity at Kankakee Sands.”
 

More on Kankakee Sands and the Bison

Want to learn more about Kankakee Sands?
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The Nature Conservancy's Kankakee Sands is 10,000 acres of prairie and savanna habitat in Northwest Indiana and Northeast Illinois, open every day of the year for public enjoyment. The Nature Conservancy in an international, non-profit organization. For more information about Kankakee Sands, visit www.nature.org/KankakeeSands or call the office at 219-285-2184.