Iowa's Bison: Wild Animals in a Domesticated Landscape

  • Kayla Koether


Less than 150 years ago the bison of the North American Great Plains were nearly wiped out by European-Americans pushing west. Scholars estimate thatprior to their near extinction the North American bisonherd numbered somewhere between 30 and 75 millionanimals.1 Bison were a keystone herbivore on the prairie;through grazing, wallowing, and depositing nutrientsthey acted as an important source of disturbance,contributing to habitat and species diversity.2 They werenot only crucial to the prairie ecosystem, but also to theNative cultures that relied on them for food, shelter,and materials.

Author Biography

Kayla Koether

Kayla Koether grew up rotationally grazingcattle and sheep on her familys 5th generationfarm in Northeast Iowas driftless region.Her parents and grandparents strongconservation ethic fostered her passions insustainable agriculture and led her to createan independent major, International Agricultureand Rural Development, at GrinnellCollege. Her contribution to Rootstalk ispart of her 2012 senior thesis research guidedby Professors Jon Andelson and KathyJacobson. Kayla has taught gardening andnutrition in public schools as an AmeriCorps member with the Northeast IowaFood and Fitness Initiative, and currentlyworks at the non-profit Winneshiek EnergyDistrict helping farmers reduce their carbonfootprints and adopt renewable energy. Sheand her partner, Landon Corlett, plan tostart a rotational grazing operation in 2016and research the effects on soil health andbiodiversity.

How to Cite
KOETHER, Kayla. Iowa's Bison: Wild Animals in a Domesticated Landscape. ROOTSTALK | A Prairie Journal of Culture, Science and the Arts, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 1, p. 50-61, may 2015. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 20 sep. 2017.