Celebrate National Bison Day on a “Bison Crawl”!

Bison graze at the USDA Forest Service’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Wilmington, Illinois. Photo by Rick Short / USDA Forest Service - Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Celebrate National Bison Day with a Bison Crawl on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. In honor of bison, America’s National Mammal, the USDA Forest Service’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the Forest Preserve District of Will County are co-hosting a community-wide bison outreach with Two Hounds Antiques, the Manhattan-Elwood Public Library and the Wilmington Public Library.

At the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie stop, meet the volunteers and staff that will be on hand along the Iron Bridge Trail where you can explore the prairie and look for the Midewin bison herd.

A small herd of bison roams over a thousand acres at Midewin. The herd was established in 2015 as 20-year conservation experiment. Volunteers and staff are monitoring to see if the herd’s grazing pattern, which creates more varied grass lengths, is encouraging the return of native Illinois prairie plants, insects, birds and other species.

The Iron Bridge Trailhead at Midewin is located on the east side of Hwy. 53, between Elwood and Wilmington. The trailhead is about 2 miles north of the Gemini Giant.

The Midewin Welcome Center will also be open and you can visit with staff and volunteers there about bison and watch a film that shows the Midewin bison herd arriving at Midewin in 2015. You will be able to get up close and touch a bison pelt. Those that are interested in educational items for presentations – “Bison Bags” – are available to be checked out year-round from the Midewin Welcome Center. The Midewin Welcome Center is located at 30239 S. State Route 53, Wilmington, IL 60481.

The Forest Preserve Forest Preserve District of Will County stop on the Bison Crawl will be at Sugar Creek Administration Center, 17540 W. Laraway Road in Joliet.

District staff will be on site to talk all things bison and to lead prairie ecology hikes that will highlight the bison’s role in the magnificent prairie ecosystem.

Then you can throw it old school by trying your hand in a “Little House on The Prairie-style” bison chip throwing contest. The person who throws a chip the farthest will win a prized bison skull generously donated by Ruhter Bison Farm in Newman, Illinois, www.RuhterBison.com.

A representative with Ruhter Bison Farm, Prairie Rim Ranch will be at the Forest Preserve District stop to speak to the farm’s history, practices and products related to bison.

The bison chip throws will take place at the close of each prairie ecology hike. Each person participating in a hike will have an opportunity to throw a bison chip. The interpretive hikes will travel along the Sugar Creek Administration Center’s prairie path. The hikes are expected to last approximately 30 minutes each, with four hikes scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. The time and length of each hike may vary.

You will be able to view a bison pelt, horns, jaw and shoulder bone to see what they look first-hand.

In Wilmington, Two Hounds Antiques will present natural shopping and learning opportunities. John Gardener will be there to talk about the importance of bees and beekeeping. There will also be vendors with hot and cold food and bison goods and handmade leather goods. In Wilmington, times will extend beyond the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. timeframe. The address is 315 N. Water St., Wilmington, IL 60481.

At the library stops, you will also be able to get a close look at bison teeth, bones and small sections of pelts at the Manhattan-Elwood Public Library (240 Whitson St, Manhattan, IL 60442) and the Wilmington Public Library (201 S. Kankakee St., Wilmington, IL 60481). Both libraries will host bison learning stations for the two weeks before Bison Day and on the actual day. Books and movies about bison will be curated into the displays.

Can’t make it out for the Bison Crawl? Watch the Midewin bison herd from home. In December 2016, a Bison Cam link: (bit.ly/2hmPH72) was introduced at Midewin in partnership with NFF. The bison cam can be accessed from the home page of the Midewin website (www.fs.usda.gov/main/midewin/home). When the bison are visible in the web cam the public is notified on Midewin Facebook (www.Facebook.com/Midewin/) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/MidewinNatTP – @MidewinNatTP).

In 2017, the Midewin bison herd was featured in an episode of the PBS show Travels with Darley. Since May 2018, the episode has been available in 33 countries around the world 24/7. Amazon Prime:https://amzn.to/2KkVOGl is a pay to view link where you can watch the episode at your leisure.

Also, in 2017, WGN Channel 9 TV featured a program called “Bison Herd Helping To Heal A Lost Landscape in Illinois.” This segment talks about restoring the prairie and the bison project actions on the landscape to bring back birds, bugs and plants that no longer flourish at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The link to the episode is online, here: https://wgntv.com/2017/06/15/bison-project-in-wilmington-illinois/.

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