Two dozen bison now roaming through Newton Co. prairie

For the first time in nearly 200 years, bison are now roaming through a nature conservatory in Newton County. WLFI/File Photo
For the first time in nearly 200 years, bison are now roaming through a nature conservatory in Newton County. WLFI/File Photo

NEWTON COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – For the first time in nearly 200 years, bison are now roaming through a nature conservatory in Newton County.

Spanning nearly 8,000 acres, the Kankakee Sands Project is nestled halfway between Lafayette and Chicago. Owned and operated by the Indiana Chapter of Nature Conservancy, the project started back in 1996.

Since then, more than 6,700 acres of prairie has been planted, serving as home to native birds and wildflowers. A few days ago – a new animal was added into the mix.

“We made the decision to bring bison here for prairie management specifically,” site manager Ted Anchor said. “It’s just kind of that next step in the restoration here in our work trying to recreate the prairie landscape in Newton County.”

After rounding up the bison from a nature conservancy in South Dakota, the bison were loaded on a cattle trailer and made the 15-hour trek to Indiana.

They arrived in Newton County on Oct.15 and will live in a 365-acre parcel for now.

Anchor said the prairie is open to the public and, so far, the public has taken a major liking to the animals.

“We have a whole new clientele visiting this project because of the bison,” Anchor said. “And as part of that, we’re hoping that people can learn about conservation.”

Shirley Alvarado and Al Mattull made their way out to the prairie Monday morning.

“It just makes me feel good that we haven’t destroyed wildlife and the history of Indiana,” Alvarado said.

Anchor said through all of the hard work, the experience has been rewarding nonetheless.

“This project has been one of the highlights of my career,” said Anchor. “It’s part of my long-term goals as a project manager to bring bison onto a native prairie.”

He said down the road, the herd will grow to 50-75 animals.

The operation is being overseen by the Indiana Board of Animal Health and the Indianapolis Zoo.

Anchor said the last time bison were free roaming in Indiana was 1830.