Part of the Badlands Opens to Bison—for the First Time in 150 Years
by Brigit Katz Smithsonian.com
Last Friday, four bison waited quietly inside a grey trailer parked on the plains of South Dakota’s Badlands National Park. When the doors of the trailer swung open, the hulking animals darted out and galloped across the snow-covered, windswept landscape—the first inhabitants of territory that has not been occupied by bison since the 1870s.
As Seth Tupper of the Rapid City Journal explains, staff released the bison as part of an effort to expand the animals’ range in the national park, which encompasses a stretch of dramatic rock formations, canyons and grasslands on the edge of the Great Plains in South Dakota. Bison have long roamed the rugged, western part of the park, but a parcel of privately owned land blocked their migration into the central area of the park’s North Unit, where most visitors spend their time.
In 2014, with support from the U.S. Forest Service and non-profit groups like the World Wildlife Fund, the park secured a land swap with the Don Kelly Ranch, which owned the key piece of territory, thus opening the land up to bison migration.