White Bison Calf Born in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley

Confirmation

Yellowstone National Park has confirmed that a white bison calf was born in Lamar Valley on June 4, 2024, based on multiple credible sightings. Reports and photos of the calf were received by Yellowstone’s Center for Resources Bison Management Team from park visitors, professional wildlife watchers, commercial guides, and researchers on June 4. However, park staff have not been able to locate the calf since then, and no confirmed sightings have been reported since June 4. Photos indicate the calf is leucistic (having black eyes and hooves with some pigmentation) rather than albino.

Significance

The birth of a white bison calf is a rare natural phenomenon that once occurred before the near extinction of bison in the late 19th century when their population was in the tens of millions. This birth may signify a preserved natural genetic legacy in Yellowstone’s bison, revealed due to the successful recovery of the wild bison population, which now numbers between 3,000 and 6,000 animals. This event is a significant milestone in the ecological and cultural recovery of bison by the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS has never before reported a white calf being born within Yellowstone National Park. Such an occurrence is believed to happen in 1 in 1 million births or even less frequently. The NPS also acknowledges the cultural significance of a white bison calf for American Indians.

Bison Population

Yellowstone’s bison population fluctuates between 3,000 and 6,000 animals, divided into two subpopulations based on breeding areas. The northern herd breeds in the Lamar Valley and surrounding high plateaus, while the central herd breeds in Hayden Valley. The estimated pre-calving bison population for 2024 is around 4,550. Calving typically occurs in a single pulse during late spring and early summer. Annual post-calving counts will be completed in August. It’s noted that each spring, about 1 in 5 bison calves die shortly after birth due to natural hazards. For more details on bison ecology and bison management in Yellowstone, read further.

Disclaimer: This above news story is based on a press release from the National Park Service, which was issued on June 28, 2024. You can read the original release here.

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Feature image: nps.gov

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