A herd of 40 juvenile male bison will arrive at their Afton summer home – 130 fenced-in acres at Belvin Conservancy – on May 21.
The herd is on loan from Northstar Bison in Rice Lake, Wis., which raises the animals for meat. While in Belvin, they graze freely and help restore the prairie.
“I can’t even explain how the addition of bison has improved the landscape here,” said Justin Sikora, Belvin’s director of operations. “The quality and maturity of our prairie has improved fourfold. The balance and abundance of insects, wildlife, wild flowers and grasses here are second to none in the country. Plus, our management energy and costs have decreased – all for bison.” Thank you.”
Sikora said the release of the animals on May 21, which is open to the public, has become a popular event. Over 800 people have attended the release over the years.
Bison generally arrive sometime between noon and 1 a.m.; “Since animals don’t always follow a set schedule, they are allowed some dangling room,” he said.
The Belvin Bison Festival, which takes place at the Lucy Vinton Bell Athletic Fields in Belvin, begins at 10 a.m. with a 5K fun run through the prairie. Registration is required. The cost is from May 20 to May 20; The day of entry fee is $25.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be family-friendly activities including educational performances, live music, interactive eco-art and food trucks. The cost of participating in a bison release is $10 per car; cash or check only, payable while you drive; No RSVP required. Dogs are not allowed in the program.
Event details, including parking and shuttle information, can be found at belwin.org/event/belwin-bison-festival/.
Visitors can view bison at Belvin throughout the summer through a two-story observation platform, which is open daily from dawn to dusk.
More information can be found at belwin.org/visit.