University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences
Bison enjoying the savanna landscape, photo by Chad ZirbelClassic oak savanna, photo by Jake MillerBison at the woodland edge, photo by Chad Zirbel

Bison and Savanna Research

From Dr. Forest Isbell (associate director) and Dr. Caitlin Barale Potter (education and community engagement coordinator)

As many of you may have heard, Cedar Creek began a new project in 2018 which 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 Forest Isbell via email ( ).

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.

Click here for an overview blog post, on our Eyes on the Wild trail camera blog.

Click here to read a science writer's perspective on her visit to the the herd.




What a great season! Over the nearly 5 months the 2019 herd was onsite, hundreds of visitors from all over the world stopped by to learn about our research (we had visitors from Sweden and England!). Thank you to our naturalist volunteers for providing programming each weekend, and to everyone who participated. We hope you'll be back again next year! Open hours at the gazebo are now closed, and for safety and security reasons, the extension trail is also closed. 
Once there is a decent amount of snow on the ground, we will reopen the extension trail as well as some of the internal roads inside the bison enclosure for skiing and snowshoeing. The Fish Lake Nature Trail is open year round for hiking, walking, geocaching, bird-watching and more so you can still stop by for a visit! Directions are at
Over the winter, we also recommend you check out Cedar Creek's trail camera project, Eyes on the Wild. You can help our scientists classify images of wildlife on the property, and there are PLENTY of pictures of the herd for you to enjoy!


Frequently Asked Questions

Will the bison be here year-round? The bison are only at Cedar Creek during the growing season, from approximately early June through some time in the fall (mid-September in 2018, mid-October in 2019).

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? While the bison are on site, our bison viewing gazebo is staffed on Saturdays from 10am til 2pm, as well as during special events at other times during the summer. Keep an eye on Cedar Creek’s website and facebook page for more details! THE GAZEBO AND EXTENSION TRAIL ARE NOW CLOSED FOR THE SEASON.

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? In summer 2018, there were 32 bison onsite for three months. In 2019, we hosted 17 males for nearly 5 months. Numbers are being kept low to ensure that there will be plenty of grazeable 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 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 heros of bison conservation, and shares information about the 17 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