First Bison of 2016 born at Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

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Press Release by: Katie Hawk

Along with his daughter and four grandchildren, George Perdue of Texas witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime experience at Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Pawhuska on Easter Sunday: the first baby bison of 2016 alongside its mother just after birth!

As a member of The Nature Conservancy for 45 years, this was George’s first visit to the preserve.

“On our way out of the preserve, we saw this newborn and mother. Birth was just minutes before we got there. It was the highlight of a very nice trip,” Perdue said.

Coincidentally, the first bouncing baby bison of 2015 was also seen on Easter Sunday. In the spring of 2015, about 560 calves were born. Preserve staff expect another 600-700 this spring making now a great time to visit the preserve to view the precious bundles of joy along with the 2,100 adult bison that roam freely. Young bison are fun to watch as they can be rather playful. Visitors may see calves frolicking, chasing, battling, butting, kicking, and racing. Such activity aids muscle development and coordination important later in life.

For the public’s safety, when visiting the bison, please observe the following rules:
Rule #1: Stay in your car!
Rule #2: Stay in your car!
Rule #3: Stay in your car!

Bison are fast – they can go from 0 to oops (up to 35mph) faster than you can say it! If they’re blocking the road, be patient. Though they may be big and fuzzy, bison are wild animals and are not cuddly.

The preserve is open daily from dawn to dusk with no charge for admittance and can be accessed via county roads. There are free ranging bison herds, scenic turnouts, hiking trails, picnic tables, breezeway information and public restrooms at the Historic Bunkhouse. The gift shop / visitor center is open from March through mid-December from 10:00am to 4:00pm. It is operated by docents, and is typically open every day.

Consisting of almost 40,000 acres near Pawhuska in Osage County, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie left in the world! Since 1993, The Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma has proven successful at restoring this fully-functioning portion of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem with the use of free-roaming bison. The herd started with 300 bison in 1993 and continues to thrive despite the recent drought. Learn more by visiting nature.org/tallgrass.

Directions to the preserve: From downtown Pawhuska, drive north on Kihekah at the intersection of Highway 60 (at the corner of the triangle-shaped building), follow signs to the preserve headquarters (approximately 18 miles).

Bison Facts
Though “buffalo” is commonly used, “bison” is the correct term for the mammals on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. According to scientists, true buffalo are confined to Africa and Southeast Asia.

Before the settlements of modern civilization, around 30 million bison roamed across North America. By 1890, fewer than 600 plains bison were left alive.

Bison are the largest native animals on the North American continent.

Full-grown bison bulls stand about 6.5 feet at the shoulder and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.

Adult bison consume more than 30 pounds of grass (air-dry weight) in a day.

Bison can jump 6 feet vertically. Because they reportedly can jump more than 7 feet horizontally, “bisonguards” on the Preserve are 14 feet wide. (This is double the standard width of a cattleguard.)

Bison can run at speeds up to 35 miles per hour.

Bison are powerful swimmers, navigating with all but hump, muzzle, and top of the head submerged.

Both sexes have horns; the cow’s are smaller. A bull bison can be identified from a cow by wider, thicker horns; a wider skull; and a generally more massive structure.

The gestation period for bison is 9.5 months.

Bison calves are generally born in the spring and weigh 30-40 pounds.

The bison was named the state mammal of Oklahoma by the legislature in 1972.

Tallgrass Praire Preserve announces Renaming to Honor Joseph Williams

TallgrassPrairieRenamingPhotoPress Release by Tallgrass Prairie Communications Director Katie Hawk

PAWHUSKA, OK – More than a quarter century ago, through the leadership of Joseph H. Williams, the dream of many Oklahomans to see a significant piece of the iconic tallgrass prairie in Osage County permanently conserved finally became a reality. Known as the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, The Nature Conservancy renamed the preserve in honor of Mr. Williams today at a dedication ceremony.

“We owe Joe a debt of gratitude for having the courage to forge ahead to make the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve a reality and a legacy for future generations to enjoy,” said Mike Fuhr, State Director of The Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma. “It is his daring that we are honoring. And what an appropriate way to do so – honoring Joe by renaming the preserve in which he played such an important role in creating. This wonderful place will now be forever known as the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.”

Mr. Williams’ efforts began because he was an avid bird hunter but found game populations were being depleted by changes in rural land use. In the late 1980s, he and other hunters began to explore ways to conserve these native habitats.

“During this time we approached The Nature Conservancy for help,” said Joeseph H. Williams, former chairman of both the Oklahoma Board of Trustees and National Board of Governors for The Nature Conservancy. “They urged me to gather a group of prominent citizens from all across the state to become a Board of Trustees for a new Oklahoma chapter of The Nature Conservancy.”

The effort took an entire organization and a group of visionary Oklahomans to do what others had been unable to do. Chief among them was Mr. Williams who galvanized this amazing group at a time when the local economy was anything but favorable to finding millions of dollars in donations, even for a project that would create a long overdue prairie preserve for the world to embrace.

It was a short but consequential meeting in an airplane hangar in Oklahoma City where the Oklahoma trustees through Mr. Williams’ urging and leadership made the decision that forever changed the world of prairie conservation, a decision that asked us all to think bigger than we had in the past.

“The Conservancy recognized how vital a large expanse of tallgrass prairie under its protection would be as a symbol to others trying to establish conservation of scale sufficient to make a difference,” said Williams.

The initial Oklahoma Board of Trustees led a $15 million campaign and pulled together public sentiment for the project from all over the state and nation.

Today the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve – now at 40,000 acres – is the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie in the world and home to 2,500 free-range bison.

“We thank Joe for his hard work to create something so special. The ideas, inspiration and collaboration that the preserve has exported over the decades is living proof of his legacy,” said Fuhr.

In retirement, Mr. Williams lives in South Carolina, remains an avid outdoorsman and naturalist, and continues to support numerous conservation projects in Oklahoma and the Carolinas.

Bison Roundup at the Tallgrass Prairie

IMG_2733At this year’s bison roundup at the Tallgrass Prairie, the bison were counted, vaccinated, tagged (if needed), weighed and de-wormed.

During a closed bidding process, a buyer was chosen for some bison that would be sold. A buyer from Idaho won the bid, said Director Bob Hamilton. The buyer will ship some of the bison to Idaho and others will go to a feedlot for slaughter and sale.

Video of bison in squeeze chute.

In the video, the bison receives de-worming medication orally through a feeding tube.
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Since the 2014 bison roundup, problems with a virus have reduced the herd’s size. However, a vaccination has been developed and given to the bison during the current roundup to stop the virus from spreading further.
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The final numbers of the herd will be provided in two weeks. During our visit on Sat., Nov. 7, the largest bison weighed was 1,500 lbs., but according to Hamilton, this is likely not the heaviest bison in the herd.IMG_2534

The roundup is closed to the public except for invited media because the bison herd is wild and the roundup is stressful for the animals, Communications Director Katie Hawk explained. The goal is for the herd to remain in the wild as much as possible.
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Below is a 360 degree view of the scene at the bison roundup. Bison Roundup 360 degree view.

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