Buffalo Herd and Refuge Update
Buffalo Wildlife Herd
The Tribe currently has 47 buffalo and they have approximately 200 acres to graze (including forest). The current area is small for the number of buffalo that the Tribe manages. This causes the lands to be overgrazed and can lead to health issues for the buffalo herd. Due to the lack of forage, we are also forced to provide hay as a supplemental source of food for the buffalo in the winter months. MNR started working on a new management approach in 2016, which has and will lead to improved overall herd and land health. One major stage in this revitalization is completing the new buffalo wildlife refuge expansion, which will add approximately 60 acres to the current refuge.
This year we lost two buffalo, one in the winter and one in the last week. Due to the continuous wet growing season we experienced last year and confined refuge area, the herd contracted gut parasites. MNR staff treated the herd and worked with our local vet. The herd improved in health. This individual was not able to fully regain condition. As most animals do, she headed to water to pass. The recent passing was caused by an issue during labor. MNR has the upmost respect for all animals, especially the buffalo herd, and are treated with such.
MNR is working to finalize the expansion of the buffalo wildlife refuge that was started in 2016. The above mentioned issues will be solved by implementing a new rotational grazing plan. Rotational grazing focuses on animals moving to different paddocks (i.e., locations) to graze for shorter time periods. Allowing the land a chance to heal and plants a chance to regrow with minimal disturbance. This helps mimic grazing patterns that would happen naturally if the buffalo were free to roam over the entire landscape.
Staff planted the expanded 60 acres to a native prairie mix consisting of 60 species of grasses and wildflowers; including sage, milkweed, mint and Echinacea. Many of these plants benefit both wildlife and people in their multiple uses. This area will be open to the community as an area free of potential chemicals to harvest plants.
MNR Staff will be working to finish fence construction around the expansion area this spring. The fence line will be the same style as the existing fence. This style allows smaller animals such as deer to enter and exit the pasture but keeps the buffalo contained. We will have multiple gates throughout the fence line. When the buffalo do not have access to the area, we will keep the gates open to allow for better access to community members. We will have the gates open in the fall and winter when hunting and firewood collection is more common. The area will have space around the perimeter to drive to allow access even when the gates are closed. As always, access to inside the refuge area is available upon request. MNR has a loaner key program that allows access outside of operating hours.
For more information, please contact:
Jarrett Pfrimmer, MNR Director