What an exciting week at the Prairie Heritage Center as a Bison calf was born! We believe it was born over the weekend as we discovered it on Monday, April 26th. It was a great way to start a Monday morning!
Bison cows, the female, are able to start reproducing around 2-3 years of age. The Bison gestation period is around nine months. They give birth to a single calf in the spring, typically April and May. A baby Bison is called a calf, but also has the nickname “red dog”. This nickname is due to the reddish brown or cinnamon color that their fur has at birth, instead of the darker brown found in the adults. At birth a calf can weigh between 30-50 pounds and just minutes after they are born they are able to stand and within hours able to run. As the newborn calf gets older they will start turning the darker brown color, develop the hump that is distinctive to Bison, and start growing horns. This typically happens around two-three months of age.
A Bison calf will stay with their mom nursing for up to eight months. Male, or bull, Bison do not help with raising a calf. Bison calves are fully independent at one year of age. While their mom is their main protector, the whole herd helps to keep this baby safe. In the wild Bison do not have many natural predators due to their massive size, but calves are preyed upon by wolves, mountain lions, and bears. So it is important that the herd watches over calves to help keep these predators at bay.
We invite you to come see this fresh life at the Prairie Heritage Center, but do remember that these are wild animals. The herd, and especially mom, are very protective of their baby. While Bison seem lazy or slow, they actually are quite fast and agile, especially if agitated. They can run 30 miles per hour and can easily jump over objects that are five feet tall. Keep your distance while viewing to help keep the herd happy and feeling safe. A good way to tell if a Bison is not happy is when their tail goes up (and they aren’t going to the bathroom). The viewing tower at the Prairie Heritage Center is an awesome spot to view the Bison!