See Bison in Iowa!

In between the corn fields there are some pretty neat things in Iowa. Like bison, I did not know that there were bison in Iowa. How cool! If you thought they are extinct then you are mistaken, they are not.

The Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge  is in Prairie City, Iowa. First of all, the bison, we got to see some! They were a little away from the car though, so they were like giant hairy rocks. My mother has  been there a few times though and told us that every time she goes they were walking right in front of the car. I suppose this was the first time that that did not happen for her. Our loss! There was a baby born recently there as well, so they say to keep an eye out for a smaller golden colored hairy rock (Haha).

There are a few things available at the Refuge. You can drive through the outdoors and try your luck at seeing some bison or elk (some of the staff said they are kind of elusive and stick to the trees), but there are also supposed to be prairie chickens, coyote, hawks, and other creatures. We saw a hawk diving into the grass to catch something to eat, and also a dead possum!

Aside from the drive, there are some trails you can walk along. It was way too cold for this wimpy Floridian the day I was there but I have heard it is really neat and if you make the arrangements with the staff you can do a nighttime walk/tour with a guide to lead the way. I would love to go back in warm weather to see everything then because I think I missed out on a lot by being there when it was cold.

The Learning Center is the main building. There is an art gallery to the left. The staff are super nice and helpful. Make sure you get your National Refuge Passport stamped! If you do not have one, they sell them in their quaint gift shop. Sadly they do not sell the Passport for National Parks. There is a video that can be played, just let the employee at the front desk know when you are ready. You can look through some binoculars onto the prairie from inside to try and see some bison or other animals. There are also some areas that teach about conservation, natural order of the ecosystem and the animals that naturally live on the prairies.

Don’t forget to put a pin in your home location on their maps! We put one in Miami and Dubai.

The Refuge has some objectives – I’m going to copy and paste from their Website, I feel these better tell more about what is at the Refuge and what they are about, more than I can describe. Here’s the page the next section comes from: LINK

**Future Management Direction

The CCP establishes three goals and 23 objectives for meeting those goals. Some of the objectives are departures from previous management. Key changes to Neal Smith NWR programs that will be implemented over the next 15 years include:

Tallgrass Prairie Habitats

  • Increase the diversity of native plants on Refuge prairies, savannas, and sedge meadows.
  • Convert all cropland to native vegetation; use short-term farming to prepare seedbeds on restoration sites.
  • Use an integrated program of fire and grazing to emulate historic disturbance patterns and maximize the wildlife benefits of Refuge habitat.
  • Maintain a mix of tall, medium, and short habitat structure to meet the diverse needs of grassland-dependent birds.
  • Monitor progress toward meeting habitat objectives; evaluate the effectiveness of management actions.

Landscape-Scale Development and Habitat Loss

  • Work with partners to further reduce erosion and improve water quality throughout the watershed.
  • Work with partners to establish wildlife habitat corridors between the Refuge, Lake Red Rock, and Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt.
  • Expand the Refuge boundary to the east and west by 3,210 acres to include all tributaries of Walnut Creek that flow through the Refuge.

People

  • Expand environmental education, interpretation, volunteer, and community outreach programs. Review and update the Refuge hunting plan.
  • Review and update exhibits, brochures, signs, and website.**

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