The goals of wildlife management at Wind Cave National Park are to restore the landscape as close as is possible to natural conditions. This includes maintaining a population of bison and elk and the other residents of the mixed grass prairie.
Resource management also includes restoring and protecting the native mixed-grass prairie that supports the animals. The preferred method is to mimic natural processes whenever possible. The prairie has many challenges, with encroaching ponderosa pines being one. In 1972, the park began using prescribed fire to arrest the encroachment of pines onto the prairie. Prescribed fire is now a common tool used to protect the health of the prairie.
The diversity of the prairie ecosystem is also threatened by non-native plants. Of the 500 species of plants found in the park about 100 are non-native. Some non-natives, like Canada thistle, can out-compete native plants, create mono-cultures where native plants cannot survive. This loss of species diversity affects the food source for animals and the strength of the habitat. The park is currently waging war against non-native plant species.
For more information about the return of the wildlife to Wind Cave National Park select from the listings below: