- Associated Press - Saturday, January 7, 2017

FRANKLIN GROVE, Ill. (AP) - A herd of bison on an Illinois prairie has grown from 20 to 90 since it was brought over two years ago to boost the grassland restoration.

The 4,000 acres of prairie at the Nachusa Grasslands, about 95 miles west of Chicago, has become an attraction as volunteer work days have drawn record attendance, the Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/2iLMHlD) reported.

“I think it’s going swimmingly,” said Bernie Buchholz, president of Friends of Nachusa Grasslands. “When you see how joyful people are when they see the animals, it’s really amazing.”

But the project, which began in 2014, has had some setbacks, including in December, when managers ordered two bulls be killed after they escaped Nachusa and refused to return. Two calves and a female cow also died this year.

Nachusa project director Bill Kleiman said 17 calves were born this year. The Nature Conservancy, an international nonprofit that owns Nachusa, may send bison to other reserves or sell some animals for meat next year if the herd continues to grow.

In the meantime, work continues on a visitors’ shelter, and the conservancy. Nachusa also plans to add acres to the grasslands reserve.

Early signs indicate the bison may be performing the task they were brought to do.

“There’s a little bit more work involved in having these animals out there than if they weren’t out there,” Kleiman said, “but that’s OK. I like to work. I haven’t gotten a bit tired of seeing them. I think they’re fun and they’re smart.”

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com

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