National Forest Foundation

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New High Definition Web Cam Provides Live Views of Midewin Conservation Bison


New 20 Power Telescopes and Rest Areas Enhance On-site Visitor Experience

The U.S. Forest Service’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, in partnership with the National Forest Foundation, announced today that a new web cam will provide live views of the Midewin bison herd. The web cam covers areas where the bison have been known to graze, providing glimpses of the herd to the public.   

The bison cam can be accessed through the following link: http://www.earthcam.com/usa/illinois/wilmington/midewin/?cam=bison.

The Midewin (pronounced: Mid-DAY-win) bison herd is a small conservation herd. The herd was introduced at Midewin in October 2015 as a 20-year experiment in restoring the landscape to native tallgrass prairie. The grazing of the herd reintroduces disturbance that is important to reviving and sustaining a more diverse habitat of native grasses for wildlife. Citizen scientists, volunteers, partners and staff are monitoring any noticeable increases in native prairie wildlife found at Midewin. The data they are collecting will be helpful in telling whether the grazing of the herd, and the varying lengths of different species of grasses created by their grazing, is encouraging a return of a wider variety of native Illinois plants, animals and insects.  

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is a unit within the U.S. Forest Service where volunteers, partners and staff are working together to restore 18,500 acres of land that was once prairie in northeast Illinois. 

At Midewin, we are working with volunteers and partners in prairie restoration. We want to show people what the North American prairies might have looked like hundreds and thousands of years ago, and this herd of conservation bison is essential in our endeavor. With the live web cam, people all over the world can now see what is happening here, including how the grazing pattern of the bison could be helping to create a more diverse landscape for birds and other wildlife that are native to the prairies.

Midewin Prairie Supervisor Wade Spang

The bison cam is installed 25 feet above the ground. The camera provides streaming of high definition video. The camera is connected to the Internet network via wireless signal. The entire system is powered with solar power.  

While the web cam will operate 24 hours every day, the grazing pattern of the herd is unpredictable and there are no specific times identified as better than others for when the herd will be visible through the web cam. 

The Midewin story is a unique and powerful example of public and private organizations, and concerned individuals coming together to restore Illinois’ tallgrass prairie. We are proud to be working with the U.S. Forest Service and so many community-based partners to restore this special place. We hope that the bison cam will connect Americans to Midewin and their incredible public lands.

NFF President Bill Possiel

There is also no guarantee that in-person visitors to Midewin will see the bison. Midewin officials recommend that visitors bring binoculars and wear sturdy shoes. A starting point when looking for the bison herd is the Iron Bridge Trailhead area, which is located about 2.5 miles north of the Welcome Center, 30239 IL-53, Wilmington, IL 60481.

To support visitors looking for the bison, volunteers and staff recently installed two new 20 power telescopes at points overlooking areas where the bison have been known to graze. The two scopes are mounted at two different levels, one at an upper level and one at lower level that is accessible to individuals in wheelchairs. There is no charge to use the telescopes.

Additionally, as part of National Public Lands Day this past September, volunteers and staff installed four new benches. Visitors looking for the bison herd can stop and take a break at one of these benches and enjoy vista views of Midewin. The new benches are located about a 30-minute walk southeast of the Iron Bridge Trailhead.

Midewin trails are open from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and can accommodate bicycles and horses. Trail maps are available online: http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/midewin/maps-pubs.

For information about Midewin outreach programs, tours and activities, see: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5444192.pdf.

#ItsAllYours. We hope to see you soon.