Rural Missouri - January 2012 - (Page 13)

O U T D O O R S wo centuries ago, a vast tallgrass prairie stretched from horizon to horizon across north Missouri. It was a place where armadas of bison grazed on a seemingly endless sea of grass. Now, after a nearly 200-year hiatus, a new four-legged fleet has been assembled at Dunn Ranch Prairie. In mid-November, the final piece to a prairie restoration puzzle was put in place as The Nature Conservancy released a herd of 36 bison at Dunn Ranch. Funded by private donations, the bison are the culmination of an effort that began when the Conservancy purchased the property in 1999. “Nearly 1,000 acres of Dunn Ranch have never met the plow,” says Randy Arndt, who has served as site manager for the prairie in Harrison County since 2007. “In places, it has 30 to 40 inches of black topsoil, and nearly 300 plant species have been identified here. It’s our goal to restore a functioning tallgrass prairie ecosystem, and we intend to use fire and bison to achieve that goal.” The bison originated from a herd at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, one of only two founding herds in the U.S. that were not crossbred with cattle. The Dunn Ranch bison herd currently includes 23 cows, 14 of which are already of breeding age, and 13 bulls, of which two are of breeding age. All were certified by the Missouri state veterinarian to be free of disease. To prepare for the bison, the Conservancy enclosed 1,250 acres of the property within a 6-1/2-foot-tall, eight-strand barbed wire fence. The organization also constructed a bison-handling facility, including a corral. Grundy Electric Cooperative, which serves Dunn Ranch Prairie, reset its power lines outside of the enclosure to prevent the bison from rubbing against the utility poles. Prairie habitats are unique in that they have evolved over time to be reliant on constant disturbance. Historically, fire and grazing have been nature’s tools for the task. Randy explains that when a portion of the prairie is burned, it promotes the growth of new, succulent vegetation that attracts the roaming bison. As the vegetation becomes more rank, the bison will move on in search of the next patch of young plants to eat. Over time, the prairie becomes a mosaic of habitat structures of varying height and density. “This heterogeneous landscape attracts a wide range of grassland birds,” he says. “They each use a different habitat within the prairie, everything from upland sandpipers and bobolinks to dicksissels, grasshopper sparrows and greater prairie chickens.” Robin Frank is a cattleman and landowner ad- T by Jason Jenkins jjenkins@ruralmissouri.coop To order a print of this photo, see page 35. Weighing in at 1,300 pounds, this 5-1/2-year-old bull is the elder statesman of a new bison herd at Dunn Ranch Prairie in Harrison County. In November, he and 35 others were released onto the prairie, where their grazing patterns will create a mosaic of habitats for grassland birds such as greater prairie chickens, bobolinks and others. ReturN to the PrairiE Bison now graze north Missouri’s Dunn Ranch Prairie jacent to Dunn Ranch. He believes prairie to view the bison up close.” • the bison pose no health threat to his In the coming year, an additional 1,200 Hatfield livestock and, like the prairie chickens, acres are scheduled to be fenced to create will attract some visitors to the area. a second bison unit. If a roundup is held Randy says bison watching is permitat Wind Cave National Park in 2012, 30 ted at any time from the perimeter road more bison will be sent to Dunn Ranch. around the bison unit. Two viewing areas Eventually, plans call for an over-win— one on the south boundary and one on ter herd of 250 bison. Including calves the west boundary — offer a place to pull born in late spring, the thundering off the road. From the western viewing area, herd could reach up to 350 animals in the summervisitors can see nearly two miles across the prairie to time — an impressive sight on the vast open prairie. the bison corral. “It’s been almost 200 years since bison have been “Access to the bison unit will be by appointment on the ground, and now they’re back, doing the only,” says Randy, who advises visitors to bring same thing they did 200 years ago,” Randy says. “For binoculars. “Definitely, large groups, we will try to everything to fall in place the way it did has been accommodate as best we can.” really satisfying.” Plans are underway to have at least one public event each year in conjunction with a summer Learn more about The Nature Conservancy and its festival held in nearby Eagleville. “We want to be a tallgrass prairie restoration efforts at Dunn Ranch online part of the community and benefit the community,” at www.nature.org/missouri. To inquire about guided Randy says. “We’ll provide wagon rides onto the group tours to view the bison herd, call 660-867-3866. more information about Missouri state parks and facilities available in the Cabins for Canines program, call Missouri State Parks at 800-334-6946 or visit www.mostateparks.com. ••••• unters checked 190,089 deer during Missouri’s 11-day November firearms deer hunt, surpassing last year’s harvest by 1,884 deer, a 1-percent increase. An additional 14,439 deer were checked during Missouri’s antlerless deer season Nov. 23 through Dec. 4. As of press time, Missouri firearms deer hunters had killed 221,490 deer, including 570 during the urban season in October and 16,392 during the early youth season in November. That is up 4,209 from the same time last year. Hunters have three additional seasons — muzzleloader, late youth and the remainder of archery — to harvest a deer this season. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, resident and non-resident deer hunters spend roughly $700 million on their sport annually. That spending generates more than $1 billion in business activity across the state. In all, deer hunting supports 11,000 Missouri jobs. Outdoor Notes eginning this month, Missouri State Parks will make lodging units available to those who wish to travel and vacation with their dogs. Thanks to the new Cabins for Canines program, lodging units will be available for use by dog owners. Previously, pets were not allowed in any state park building, including lodging units. Under the new program, 30 percent of lodging units will be made available for owners with dogs, following certain guidelines. The number of dogs allowed per cabin is limited to two, regardless of size. For visitors bringing canines as overnight guests, there will be a minimum fee of $15 per dog, per night. For B H JANUARY 2012 13 http://www.nature.org/missouri http://www.mostateparks.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2012

Rural Missouri - January 2012
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
Superior steel
Facing ‘extreme men’
Return to the prairie
Outdoors
Out of the Way Eats
Missouri snapshots
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Woven in tradition
Marketplace
Around Missouri
The Nimblewill Nomad
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - January 2012

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