Bison Day -- a chance to time-travel

Thursday, July 12, 2012

In Kevin Costner's 1990 film "Dances With Wolves" Lt. John Dunbar of the Union Army travels west to the Dakota wilderness to try to regain some sense of sanity from the brutality of the Civil War.

He discovers he is alone, and slowly becomes aware of the native peoples and wildlife. Eventually, he leaves his life and goes native, becoming a member of the tribe.

One of the many memorable scenes in the movie is the bison hunt. Carefully orchestrated, the sequence captured the majesty of the bison, and the way the Native Americans hunted.

Here in Plymouth County, we are fortunate to have bison once again living in native prairies. On Saturday, the public is invited to see the grasslands, native flowers, snakes and the star attraction -- bison -- at the second annual Bison Day at the Nature Conservancy's Broken Kettle Grasslands in western Plymouth County.

Visitors to the 3000-acre preserve on Bison Day will have the opportunity to see bison in their natural habitat while riding safely atop a hay trailer towed by a tractor. The prairie rattlesnake and other snakes native to Iowa will be exhibited. Also, an aquatic tour will let visitors get in the water to catch and observe fish, aquatic insects, frogs, turtles, algae and snails.

Broken Kettle Grasslands is the Conservancy's largest preserve in Iowa and contains the largest remaining prairie in the state. In 1999, a very rare species of rattlesnake was found here, the prairie rattlesnake. The bison herd has grown from 28 since their re-introduction in 2008 to 85 and the Conservancy is anxious for people in the region to experience and learn about Broken Kettle and its bison herd.

Bison play an important role in the ecosystem of the prairie, creating spaces for other smaller animals to live and literally transferring seeds of plants from one area to another.

This is a unique opportunity to step back in time and see the way the entire county was before we arrived.