Rare Bison Herd Released Into Minneopa State Park Through Joint Effort Between Minnesota Zoo and Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

MANKATO, Minn., Sept. 25, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Eleven genetically rare bison have been released into Minneopa State Park as part of the newest efforts by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Minnesota Zoological Gardens (Minnesota Zoo) to expand the Minnesota Conservation Bison Herd.At one time, bison herds in North America were estimated to number between 30 and 60 million animals, and they roamed throughout Minnesota except the northeastern portion. Populations in Minnesota are unknown, but reports from the 1700s to 1800s suggest they were numerous. During the late 19th century, bison were hunted to near extinction until less than 1,000 animals remained in the entire United States. The last wild bison observed in Minnesota was in Norman County in 1880.In 2012, The Minnesota Zoo and the DNR entered into an agreement to work together to preserve the American bison. The Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd will be grown from the 90 bison at Blue Mounds State Park to a 500-animal herd occupying several locations. Minneopa State Park will be the first of these additional locations welcoming the rare bison.The park has a large potential audience with over 200,000 people within 50 miles.Numerous nearby educational institutions are potential research partners.The park contains sufficient prairie to accommodate a bison herd.The reintroduction of bison will help naturally manage the prairie landscape.“We are excited about our bison conservation partnership with the DNR,” said Tony Fisher, Minnesota Zoo director of animal collections. “The Minnesota Zoo works on animal conservation projects around the world and we are proud to now be helping a rare species right here in Minnesota.”Updates on the bison and more information on Minneopa State Park can be found at www.mndnr.gov/state_parks/minneopa/index.html. For more information on the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd, visit http://mnzoo.org/conservation/minnesota/bison-conservation-minnesota/. Minneopa State Park is located off U.S. Highway 169 and State Highway 68, 5 miles west of Mankato.The Minnesota Zoo is a year-round destination located in Apple Valley, just minutes south of Mall of America. Its mission is to connect people, animals and the natural world to save wildlife. For more information, call 952.431.9500 or visit mnzoo.org. The Minnesota Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and an institutional member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).A photo accompanying this release is available at: http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=36439Josh Le, Minnesota Zoo

Scott Roemhildt, DNR, 507.995.9832,