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Bison at Cedar Creek

The seasonal bison herd will not be visiting Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in 2024.

This is not a permanent end to the bison program, but a brief pause while lead researcher Forest Isbell is on sabbatical. We’ll be using this time to look into new funding and partnership opportunities, and to assess what has been learned so far connected to the project.

Bison and savanna research

In 2018, researchers at Cedar Creek initiated a new project that brought bison to our oak savannas as part of our decades-long work on savanna dynamics and restoration. This exciting opportunity is funded by Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which helps maintain, restore and enhance Minnesota’s environment and natural resources. Below are some informational resources, updates, and answers to frequently asked questions. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact researcher Forest Isbell via email ( ).

Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are the bison be here year round?

The bison are only at Cedar Creek during the growing season, from approximately late May through some time in the fall (mid-September in 2018, mid-October in 2019, 2020 and 2021, late September in 2022, early August in 2023). They arrive after prescribed burn season has finished, and depart when available grass on the landscape declines.

Where do the bison come from?

Cedar Creek's bison herd is on loan each summer through a partnership with NorthStar Bison, who also provides bison to Belwin Conservancy for prairie restoration.

Will I be able to see the bison or will they be off limits to the public?

We hope so! During the summer and early fall when the herd is onsite, the bison trail extension is open daily for self-guided walking. The gazebo is generally staffed by volunteers on Saturdays. Keep an eye on Cedar Creek’s website and facebook page for more details on these and other opportunities to visit as they are scheduled! Do keep in mind that this is not a zoo - the bison have 210+ acres of rolling oak savanna to roam, and they may not be visible even during scheduled events or open hours!

Will I still be able to hike and ski on the Fish Lake Nature Trail?

There is no change in access to the Fish Lake hiking trail, which remains open year-round and is outside the bison enclosure. Similarly, there is no change in access to the ski trails, which remain open when there is snow on the ground (note that bison will not be present on the property when there is snow). As always, please remember that no dogs are ever allowed on the trails and that you must stick to the marked trails and roads to avoid damaging research projects.

What should I do if I see an escaped bison?

Please call 911 and report your sighting to the dispatcher. This will initiate a phone tree that will alert Cedar Creek staff and project scientists, as well as the team in charge of retrieving the animal and returning it to the enclosure.

How many bison will there be?

In summer 2018, there were 32 bison onsite for three months. In 2019 and 2020, we hosted 17 males for nearly 5 months. 2021 brought 16 bison to our oak savannas. In 2022 and 2023, we hosted 18 individuals. Numbers are being kept low to ensure that there will be plenty of grazeable land available for each bison.

How can I learn more about bison?

We hope you'll attend a public event at Cedar Creek during the summer months, and come see our bison herd and our research project in person! While the bison are away from Cedar Creek, we recommend the National Parks Service series "Bison Bellows". This 52-week set of short articles from 2015 and 2016 covers bison ecology and history, celebrates the heroes of bison conservation, and shares information about the 16+ bison herds managed by the federal government. Check it out!

I have a question that isn't answered above

We encourage you to submit your questions at We will respond as we are able and answers will be viewable at