Visitors welcome after Midewin prairies see baby bison boom

Friday, May 6, 2016
Midewin see bison baby boom
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Nine bison calves were born in the last two weeks at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

Just a short drive from Chicago, a herd of bison roam freely on the Illinois prairie.

And that herd is quickly growing thanks to the work being done at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, located near Elwood about 50 miles southwest of downtown Chicago.

Nine calves were born in the last two weeks. More presumed to be on the way.

The bison herd -- four bulls and 22 cows - arrived at Midewin last fall to help restore the landscape to what it once was many, many generations ago. On Saturday, the public can get a closer glimpse of the bison.

"There's a good, rich story here and where we're going is healing it - getting it back to the way it was before human impact," said Wendy Tresouthick, an interpretive specialist with the U.S. Forest Service.

And a big part of the story now is - babies. Within hours of birth, each calf is up exploring the new terrain at mom's side.

The Midewin bison are part of a 20-year ecosystem experiment. The animals chow on the grasses, then fertilize the turf. Invasive species go away, and the good plants return. The bison roam on the former site of the Joliet Arsenal, where the army manufactured and stored ammunition.

"And when we have great bio-diversity of plants then the animals do come, the butterflies, the birds," Tresouthick said. "If you build it they will come."

And the people are coming to see -- from a distance -- the creatures that roam here again.

"They represent history and bringing them back so everyone can enjoy them," said visitor Phyllis Brown.

On Saturday, visitors can participate in the Midewin Bison Exposition. Buses in neighboring Elwood and Wilmington will shuttle visitors to a viewing area alongside a 40-acre show pasture.

The viewing will be done from a distance, so visitors should bring walking shoes and binoculars.

If the weather cooperates, the Forest Service expects a good crowd on Saturday for the stars of Midewin. Rain or shine, it means little to the Bison. They're going to be there for a long time enjoying their new home.

For more information about the Midewin Bison Exposition, visit