Photos by Cindy Dorn
Bison are once again roaming the prairie in Minnesota. Or at least parts of it.
The large animal once covered much of the state, munching on grass and enhancing natural grass regrowth by their grazing habits. But around 1900, the bison population had been decimated through market hunting and other human impacts.
In 2012, a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Zoo created the "Minnesota Conservation Bison Herd." A project aimed at protecting natural bison genetics, and ultimately preserving the species that once called Minnesota it's home.
Of the estimated 500,000 bison in North America, less than 5% are free of cattle genes. The bison included in the Conservation Herd have gone through extensive tests to ensure they're free of those genes so that the number of bison with the healthiest genetics possible can grow.
The goal is to grow pure bison herds at State Parks around Minnesota that the public can visit, including Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne and a drive-thru enclosure at Minneopa State Park near Mankato. At Minneopa the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) funded road improvements, wetland restorations to provide water for the bison, and interpretive exhibits.
Other resources are available for interpretation, outreach, and natural resource projects, including revenue from state park operations and Legacy Amendment funds.
Watch Prairie Sportsman in early 2018 to learn more about this project, including how big the herds are projected to get, how they're doing it and how you can view the animals. Don't forget to set your DVR today!