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Down and Dirty on the Prairie!

Photo by Kylee Warren

It’s Charlie, the Crane Trust Saunders Conservation Fellow. I’m back to share some cool bison research going on here!

Historically, bison were an integral part of the prairie ecosystem and common in Nebraska.  They were decimated and had been absent from the Platte River Valley for 150 years. Recent research efforts have been focused on understanding their impact and role in the grassland with the help of bison population reintroduction programs. 

 

The Crane Trust currently has 113 bison and 46 calves and does a lot of exciting research with them!

In addition to researching bison grazing as a prairie management tactic, the Crane Trust does some other fun investigating! Parasites are common in grazing mammals and bison are no different. As part of bison health assessments, crews at the Crane Trust get to sample bison feces!

This involves the entertaining task of heading out into bison pastures, waiting for bison to poop, and (safely and from a far distance), scooping it up! We collect several samples to get a good representation of the herd. Through lab processing, we’re able to use microscopes to identify and count different parasites in various bison samples.  

 

Some parasite eggs we frequently come across are tapeworms, nematodes, whipworms, and strongyles. As of now, research and sampling have shown that bison are not greatly impacted by these parasites, but we continue to monitor to determine if parasite loads have an adverse effect on bison calf weight. Usually, after about 2 years, they have developed stronger immunity. Internal parasites have occurred naturally in bison and we’re more concerned with the threat of non-native parasites and other diseases from domesticated livestock. All of this data will help inform parasite treatment regimens if treatment of younger bison is warranted.

Bison parasitology knowledge is lacking, so it’s great to be a part of this developing research and data collection. It will be cool to see how this work will impact the course of establishing grazing bison populations back to Nebraska! 

Bison safety alert!

Remember, if viewing bison, stay outside fence boundaries and never try to approach or touch them!

To learn more about bison management and at the Crane Trust, head to: American Bison (cranetrust.org) 

For more on bison parasite research, check out: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213224421000183 

Until next time!

Charlie, Saunder’s Conservation Fellow

 

Photos 1 and 7 by Kylee Warren