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Ecological Benefits of Bison

ison, as a large native herbivore that evolved on the vast grasslands of the Great Plains, are ideally suited to their environment. More than that, they are an essential component of their ecosystem, an integral part of a complex interrelated ecology involving not only predator and prey species, but the land on which they live.
Bison are much easier on their range than cattle. It is fascinating to watch a herd of bison drift across the landscape. They do not stand in one spot and eat all the forage within reach, but slowly drift along grazing as they go. Thus, any given spot is subjected to reasonably intensive but very short-term grazing, and then allowed to “rest” and rejuvenate before being grazed again. Progressive cattle producers raising natural grass-fed beef must go to considerable lengths to mimic this natural behavior of bison, often using temporary fencing and constantly rotating pastures to prevent overgrazing. Native grasses respond well to limited grazing, but if the same plant gets bitten off repeatedly with limited chance to re-grow between grazings, the range condition will eventually deteriorate and become susceptible to invasive weed infestations. Of course, bison need some room to roam. If they’re unnaturally confined they will be forced to overgraze their pasture like any other herbivore, but given adequate space bison grazing will stimulate healthy range conditions. The bison our meat is harvested from have abundant room to roam, and their habitat is in climax condition.
Another key difference is that cattle will tend to congregate in the most lush forage available, usually in the riparian areas along rivers and streams, where they tend to not only overgraze but damage the streambanks and adjacent areas from excessive use. Bison will of course utilize these areas also, but prefer to bed and ruminate on higher ground. Often groups of bison will bed right on the ridgetops, which tend to be the less productive, more barren ground, less susceptible to traffic damage. Also, these areas typically do not have the insect infestations of the wetter, lower-elevation areas, and offer a better view. Bison may or may not admire the scenery, but this offers considerable advantage in observing the approach of potential predators, and is easier on the landscape in the process. Yes, these things work in mysterious ways…

 


 

   
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