Examining the Past of "America's Serengeti" on NationalGeographic.com
Through the Center's internship program, Michelle Berry is spending her summer at at the American Prairie Reserve, a Montana-based nonprofit that acquires and manages land trusts in the West. Recently, Michelle wrote a report describing her work mapping the boundaries of historical wildlife populations on the great plains. This week, The National Geographic Society's NewsWatch blog published her report. Berry writes:
"Today, the plains are barely recognizable from the descriptions provided by the journals of Lewis and Clark. During the 1800s a series of localized extinctions occurred across the American prairie, instigated in large part by the arrival of fur trappers (who heard about the abundance of animals encountered by the expedition) and increasing numbers of settlers (thanks to steamboats, wagon trains and railroads). An estimated 30 million bison were reduced to a few hundred, pronghorn numbered in the low thousands, and elk, along with predators like grizzlies and wolves, completely disappeared."