Contact(s): Gary C. Chancey, (815) 423-2162

WILMINGTON, IL  – The U.S. Forest Service’s  Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and other partners and volunteers are celebrating the arrival of 27 American bison at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

Midewin Welcomes Bison to the Prairie“We are proud to be a part of bringing these iconic animals to their natural environment in Illinois and appreciative of the partnerships that made this possible,” said Mary Mitsos, interim NFF president.

The first bison to arrive at Midewin came from Colorado Oct. 14. Four bison bulls were transferred to Midewin by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, located at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo. The bulls, one 2-year-old and three 3-year-olds, will help grow the herd at Midewin.

On Oct. 20, 23 bison cows arrived at the Prairie from the Buffalo Country Buffalo Ranch in Gann Valley, South Dakota.

“Once the bison arrived at Midewin, they were kept in a secluded area inside the new bison corral. Midewin staff monitored them for a few days as they settled into their new home. On Oct. 23, they were released into one of four pastures, located near State Route 53 and the Iron Bridge Trailhead area,” said Wade Spang, Prairie Supervisor.

While a large public event is being planned for spring 2016, Midewin staff understands that people are very eager to see the bison.

The bison may now be visible to the public. However, due to the vast size of the pasture system and the rolling topography, spotting bison depends where they choose to spend their time. Visitors may or may not see the animals on any given day because of the herd’s location.

“Midewin staff and a trained group of volunteers are available to discuss the bison introduction project with visitors at our Welcome Center and the Iron Bridge Trailhead area,” said Wendy Tresouthick, Midewin environmental education specialist. Information and maps will be available at both locations.

Visitors are encouraged to begin their visit to Midewin at the Welcome Center located between Wilmington and Elwood along State Route 53. The Welcome Center is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, and will be open Saturday and Sunday starting Oct. 24 through Nov. 1 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Iron Bridge Trailhead, located 2.9 miles north of the Welcome Center, is the main access point to the bison area. A staffed information station will be open between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays starting Oct. 24 through Nov. 8. Visitors may also touch a bison hide and skull, borrow binoculars for viewing bison, and experience other hands-on learning opportunities at this location.

A self-guided trail leads visitors from the information station to the bison pasture fence line, where you might see bison grazing. Be aware that depending on your route, you may have to hike or bike one to 2 miles in an effort to view the bison.

Organized groups or families may also borrow one of Midewin’s “bison boxes” full of educational materials. The box also includes Midewin artifacts, pictures and information suitable for teachers or youth leaders to conduct a self-led educational hike on the Prairie.

Part of the on-going prairie restoration at Midewin includes introducing American bison to graze on an experimental basis on approximately 1,200 acres of fenced pasture located within the Prairie’s 19,000 total acres. In keeping with the Midewin Prairie Plan, the experiment will provide information on how bison improve the diversity of native vegetation on restored prairies, compared to similar prairie restoration sites without bison. Midewin staff will also monitor how bison grazing on restored prairie provides suitable habitat for a suite of grassland birds. The bison introduction effort is a partnership between the National Forest Foundation, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and other local and regional organizations.

The public is encouraged to stay updated on the latest developments by visiting the Midewin Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Midewin. Midewin plans to share images of the bison, and offer future educational opportunities.


About the U.S. Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Forest Service’s Eastern Region includes 20 states in the Midwest and East, stretching from Maine, to Maryland, to Missouri and to Minnesota. There are 17 national forests and one national tallgrass prairie in the Eastern Region. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/R9.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands managed by the Forest Service contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/.

About the National Forest Foundation
Founded in1993, the congressionally-chartered National Forest Foundation works to conserve, restore and enhance America’s 193-million-acre National Forest System. Through community-based strategies and public-private partnerships, the NFF has accomplished over 1,500 distinct stewardship projects that have enhanced wildlife habitat, revitalized wildfire-damaged landscapes, restored watersheds, and improved recreational resources for the benefit of all Americans. Through these projects, we have planted over 4.3 million trees, improved over 117,000 acres of habitat, completed over 10,500 miles of trail work, and engaged over 120,000 volunteers. To learn more, visit us at http://www.nationalforests.org.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.