Bison reintroduced to Dakota County park

Bison have been reintroduced to Spring Lake Park Reserve in Dakota County. (Courtesy of Dakota County)

A herd of American plains Bison has been reintroduced to Spring Lake Park Reserve in Dakota County.

The bison will live on about 150 acres at the park, which is located near Hastings and Rosemount. They'll be able to roam within a fenced paddock, which will help ensure the well-being of the bison and the safety of park visitors. 

Dakota County is the first county in Minnesota to reintroduce bison to the prairie. Seven bison are on the prairie, and the county’s herd may grow to about 15 animals, the county said in a news release. Bison primarily graze on grasses, which will help wildflowers in the park thrive. Plus, bison movements contribute to new plant growth by pushing seeds into the soil.

"The return of bison to the prairieland of Dakota County is a terrific natural resources success story," said Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik, whose district includes the park. "The bison will help improve the prairie ecosystem, and the sight of these animals roaming the land will be stunning for visitors to Spring Lake Park Reserve."

To start, the bison this fall and winter will be in an area of the park where they're less visible to park visitors, which will help establish the herd. Next spring, park visitors will be able to see the animals more easily.

Reintroducing bison at the park is thanks to a $560,000 Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. The project also received $851,000 in state bonding money and has support from the Tribal Historical Preservation Office of the Upper Sioux Community.

Dakota County partnered with the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd, which includes the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Zoo, and the Zollman Zoo, to establish a statewide herd of 500 genetically diverse bison.