American Bison by Trinity Arts Photo Club
The American bison once freely roamed the plains and woodland areas of North America and numbered in the millions. By the late 1800s, this important species was nearly extinct due to exploitation, overhunting, and westward expansion. Today, due to conservation efforts, more than 360,000 bison can be found in private herds and on public lands across the continent. One of those herds can be found at the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge, providing education and enjoyment for the park’s thousands of visitors each year.
By The Numbers
born on the Refuge
American Bison by Dennis Stewart, Nature Realm Wildlife Photography
A Favorite Attraction
Bringing Joy to All Ages
As the only exhibit herd in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the bison are one of the Nature Center’s main attractions. Many visitors come specifically to see them and, through bison hayrides and other bison-centered events, experience them up close.
While the City of Fort Worth owns the Nature Center, the Friends of the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge owns the bison herd and provides veterinary care.
Value of the Herd
Besides being a visitor draw, did you know that the Nature Center’s bison herd provides other benefits? Bison herds serve three primary purposes: ecological, exhibit, and species conservation. The Nature Center’s herd falls into each of these categories in some way.
The bison are an important part of the Nature Center’s land management program. They graze in five pastures totaling around 210 acres and are rotated from pasture to pasture to prevent overgrazing and to allow them to leave their mark, providing an ecological boost to the land.
As an exhibit herd, many visitors come to see the bison each year. They provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about the crucial role this species plays in the ecosystem of grassland areas and the ecology of the prairies over which they once widely roamed. Pasture rotation means the herd is not always visible to the public, so visitors can inquire about their current whereabouts at the gate.
From a species conservation standpoint, the Nature Center’s bison have tested genetically pure by the most current testing technology available. For that reason, many herd managers look to these animals as another resource for genetic diversity when managing their own herds.
The Nature Center usually maintains a permanent herd size of around 10 animals — the herd sire and nine adult cows — to maintain ecological balance. While the herd may not be large, the bison continue to bring delight to visitors of all ages.