Celebrate National Bison Day at Blue Mounds and Minneopa state parks

The public is invited to participate in National Bison Day events on Nov. 4 at two Minnesota state parks, according to the Department of Natural Resources.  

DNR naturalists will be on hand to answer questions during events at Blue Mounds and Minneopa state parks.

In May 2016, Congress adopted the bison as the national mammal of the United States. National Bison Day is celebrated the first Saturday of November to recognize this important animal.

“This is a great opportunity to celebrate the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd,” said DNR regional naturalist Alexander Watson. “Visitors can learn about North America’s largest mammal, and also our efforts to protect it.”

Visitors at Blue Mounds State Park have a chance to see the newest addition to the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd. A bull was recently introduced to the herd at the park. The two-year-old bull is a descendent of the herd at Yellowstone National Park. That herd has highly sought-after genetics.

Getting a bull from Yellowstone is difficult since the National Park Service does not allow the removal of bison that live there. To obtain this bull, researchers at Colorado State University in Fort Collins used artificial insemination, resulting in the birth of this bull.

“The addition of the Yellowstone bull is another large step for the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd,” Watson said. “Genetics from the Yellowstone population are not currently represented in our herd. Diverse genetics allow for healthier populations. The introduction of this breeding bull’s genetics will reinforce the mission of the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd, which is to preserve the bison for future generations.”

The Yellowstone bull’s genetics are desirable for three reasons. First, Yellowstone genetics are mostly missing in the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd. Secondly, the Yellowstone herd is not known to have cattle genes. And finally, the Yellowstone herd is one of the few bison herds where nature has shaped its genetics, not human breeding programs.

Less than 1 percent of all American plains bison tested so far have been found to be free of cattle genes. Genetic testing on Minnesota’s bison herd between 2011 and 2014 found them to be largely free of any genetic material that would have come from cross-breeding cattle.

The bison at Blue Mounds and Minneopa state parks are part of the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd, which is managed through a formal agreement between the DNR and Minnesota Zoo. The partners are working together to preserve American plains bison and plan to grow the herd at several locations including Blue Mounds State Park, Minneopa State Park and the Minnesota Zoo. The goal is a 500-animal herd at multiple locations.

Schedule of events:

Blue Mounds State Park:
1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

  • Viewing platform across from cart-in camp sites.
  • Self-guided tour, but park naturalist will be available for questions.
  • Park will have limited number of binoculars for guests to borrow.
  • Parking available at cart-in sites.

More information is on the event page.

Minneopa State Park:
10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

  • Naturalist to give talk on efforts to save bison and the MN Bison Conservation Herd.
  • Meet at group campground on campground side of park.
  • Wear clothing and shoes appropriate for outdoor hiking.

More information on the event webpage.

The events are free to the public, but a vehicle permit ($7/one-day or $35/year-round) is required to enter the park.

Find more information on the Minneopa State Park bison herd at mndnr.gov/minneopa-bison.