Minneopa State Park sees record 16 wild bison calves this spring

Bison graze at Minneopa State Park near Mankato
Bison graze at Minneopa State Park near Mankato, Minn., in May 2022. There have been as many as 16 bison calves born this spring to the Minneopa herd -- a record for the park.
Courtesy of Tim Pulis via Minneopa State Park

The wild bison herd at one of Minnesota's most popular state parks is booming this spring.

The herd at Minneopa State Park near Mankato includes what park officials believe are 16 new calves, the most the program has recorded since the animals were reintroduced to the area in 2015.

It’s possible there are only 14 calves, but it’s hard to count because “the problem with calves is they never want to lie or stand in one area,” said Scott Kudelka, the Minneopa area park naturalist for the Department of Natural Resources.

Either way, it’s more than the 13 who were born in each of the past two years, he said.

He said the animals are pretty independent, and don't require much management.

“Within a minute it usually stands, within five minutes it can start to run. It looks awkward but they're pretty efficient on getting moving right away,” Kudelka said.

A partnership between the Minnesota Zoo and the state's Department of Natural Resources was started in 2012 with an aim to breed and maintain a herd of 500 of the genetically rare bison that have not been significantly cross bred with cattle.

The state has also been keeping a bison herd at Blue Mounds State Park in southwestern Minnesota since 1961.

“We want to be part of this effort to keep bison as wild as possible,” Kudelka said. With the new calves, the herd is now at 47.

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