Friends Field Trip – Pure Bred American Bison and Sandhill Cranes

Friends Field Trip - Pure Bred American Bison and Sandhill Cranes

The Friends of Turkey Run and Shades State Parks have organized a field trip on Saturday, 18 November 2017, to NW Indiana to view the American Bison herd at Kankakee Sands Nature Preserve in Newton Co. and the spectacle of Sandhill Cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife area near Medaryville.

The last wild American Bison seen in Indiana was in 1830 at French Lick. Nearly 200 years later, on 15 October 2016, twenty-three purebred American Bison were released onto 1100 acres of restored prairie at the The Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands property north of Morocco, IN. Many young were born this summer to add to the wild herd which will act as a management tool in maintaining the habitat. We plan to observe the wild herd and how they impact the health of the prairie system. Prior to drainage, The “Kankakee Sands” area was once part of the largest inland marsh system in the world and included many thousands of acres of native prairie. More than 7000 acres are currently managed in a massive prairie restoration effort.

To the east in adjacent Jasper Co. we will experience the fall migration of thousands of Sandhill Cranes which collect here every fall prior to heading to more southern wintering grounds. This is one of Indiana’s must-see encounters. At the end of the day birds that have spent the day scattered over the countryside will gather in Jasper-Pulaski FWA before heading to isolated roosting sites as the sun sets.

We will meet at 8:00 a.m. at the Turkey Run Nature Center prior to carpooling to the above sites. We should arrive at Kankakee Sands by mid-morning and will spend a few hours taking in the spectacle of one of the country’s largest restored prairies along with its bison and other native residents. If time allows we can visit Willow Slough FWA nearby.

Food will be provided for a “Tail Gate” lunch before we head east into Jasper Co. We will roam country roads near Jasper-Pulaski FWA to observe Sandhill Cranes feeding in the fields (often just outside our car windows). If time allows we can walk the trail that runs through Jasper-Pulaski to an observation tower overlooking the large “Inland Marsh” where hopefully there will be a variety of waterfowl and other wildlife. We will end the day near sunset to admire from another observation tower the waves of cranes flying in to a large field on the property. Here we normally see lots of deer and frequently coyotes, turkeys, and more.

If this sounds interesting, let us know so we can be sure to have enough vehicles and drivers available for carpooling, as well as food for lunch. Be prepared for current weather conditions including wind. We will be taking a few short hikes that should not involve muddy conditions.

We will stop at a restaurant on our way home for supper, and, as this will be an all-day field trip, we will be arriving home a few hours past sundown.

We hope you can join us for a fun and educational outing.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

Alan W. Bruner