University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences
Classic oak savanna, photo by Jake MillerSavanna grasses, artwork by Jim KruegerBison running at Belwin Conservancy, Afton MN

Bison and Savanna Research

An update from Forest Isbell (associate director) and Caitlin Potter (education and outreach coordinator)

As many of you may have heard, Cedar Creek is starting up a new project in 2018 which will bring 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 Forest Isbell via email ( ), attend our next Q+A session on Saturday, May 19th at 1pm, or attend other public events throughout the summer!

Click here for our 1-page printable bison factsheet.

Click here to learn more about our savanna research and why bison are an important addition to our long-term restoration work.


Spring 2018 updates:

We know that many of you are very anxious to learn when the bison will be onsite at Cedar Creek and when you can come and see them personally. Well - the answers are finally here!

Cedar Creek's staff has been hard at work over the last few months building heavy-duty fences, planning and constructing a viewing gazebo, working with local partners to plan community events (join us for a Q+A about the project on May 19th!) , and collecting pre-arrival data on plants, birds and the insect community, as well as finishing up our pre-arrival prescribed burning. Everything is in place for the start of this exciting new project! The bison will be arriving in mid-June, and our first annual Members-Only Event will coincide with the arrival of the herd. Interested in helping us welcome bison back to this part of Minnesota on the day they arrive? Become a member, and receive a personal invitation to an evening wine and cheese event with a tour of the bison enclosure area, herd and viewing gazebo from the lead project researchers! Join online at or pop by the Lindeman Center during business hours for a paper brochure.


Frequently Asked Questions

Will the bison be here year-round? The bison will only be at Cedar Creek during the growing season, from approximately early June through September.

Where do the bison come from? The bison herd is being provided by 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? There will be regularly scheduled opportunities for visitors to come see the bison and learn about the project. We will also host a Q+A opportunity on Saturday, May 19th at 1pm, before the bison arrive for the season. Keep an eye on Cedar Creek’s website and facebook page for more details!

Will I still be able to hike and ski on the Fish Lake Nature Trail? There will be no change in access to the Fish Lake hiking trail, which will remain open year-round and which is outside the bison enclosure. Similarly, there will be no change in access to the ski trails, which will 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 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? Initially, we will have no more than 40 bison to ensure that there will be more than 5 acres of land available for each bison.

I'm excited! How can I learn more about bison? We hope you'll attend a public event at Cedar Creek this summer, and come see our bison herd and our research project in person! In the meantime, 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 heros of bison conservation, and shares information about the 17 bison herds managed by the federal government. Check it out!