Here’s Where To See A Hidden Herd Of Bison In Illinois
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Nachusa Grasslands Bison Sanctuary in Illinois, and it was an experience that I won't soon forget. Many people don't know about this incredible sanctuary in the north central Illinois area, and I feel that it's important to share my experience with others. Here's what I learned about the sanctuary during my visit.
The Nachusa Grasslands Bison Sanctuary is a 3,500-acre preserve that is home to 700 native plant species and 180 species of birds. Blanding's turtles and many other rare or uncommon animals also call this sanctuary home. In October 2014, the preserve reintroduced 30 bison to the land. These bison came from three preserves owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC): Lame Johnny Creek Preserve in South Dakota, the Broken Kettle Preserve in Iowa, and the Dunn Ranch in Missouri. Originally part of the herd from Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, these bison have been tested and show no traces of cattle genes.
The Nature Conservancy is committed to keeping the bison as wild as possible, with minimal veterinary care just once a year at the fall roundup. The animals breed, birth, feed, and care for themselves without human intervention. Weather extremes, parasites, potential predators, and herd social dynamics are all realities for Nachusa's bison. The 2021 calf count was 30, and the summer herd size was 120-130. The winter herd size was 90-100.
Why You Should Visit
The bison at Nachusa Grasslands are a sight to behold. During my visit, I saw a herd of about 30 bison along the side of the road in the southern pen. They are magnificent looking creatures that should be experienced by anyone in the north central Illinois area. Additionally, the sanctuary is home to many rare or uncommon animals and plants, making it a unique and special place to visit. The preserve is a beautiful spot for a hike or a picnic, and there is plenty to see and explore.
Why TNC Selected This Site
In 1986, The Nature Conservancy recognized that the Nachusa Grasslands offered the best opportunity in the state to restore a large and diverse grassland. So far, more than 3,500 acres have been protected at Nachusa Grasslands through acquisition or conservation easements. Staff and volunteers from throughout the region work together to preserve and restore Nachusa, with volunteers donating more than 200,000 hours of labor to the restoration and management of this marvelous example of prairie grassland. These specially trained volunteers help TNC conduct controlled burns, monitor wildlife, stop the spread of harmful, non-native species, and harvest thousands of pounds of seed every year.
How to View the Bison
Bison can be viewed from outside the bison fenced units only. The bison roam across 1,500 acres of rolling land and are often not visible from the road. Binoculars are helpful. No hiking is permitted inside the fenced North or South Bison Units. When viewing the herd, visitors should pull off the road, turn on their hazard flashers, and park where they do not limit access to private driveways or Nachusa fence gates. Folks can park at the Visitor Kiosk on Lowden Road and walk up the hill to the Autumn on the Prairie site for a possible view of the bison. Keep in mind that they can now roam over 1,500 acres, so they will often not be visible from roadsides or fence perimeter.
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