Century Baby? Bison Calf Born at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve First Since Mid-1800s

For the first time since the mid-1800s a bison calf has been born on the stretch of Kansas prairie now known as Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. NPS photo.

That didn't take long.

While a bison recovery plan for Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve was just launched last fall, and with only 13 bison, the project recently marked a significant milestone with the birth of a calf.

Preserve officials believe that the recovery project marks the first time in roughly 140 years that bison have been on this stretch of Kansas prairie. And now they're celebrating a birthday.

The majority of the park’s 10,894 acres is owned by The Nature Conservancy, while the National Park Service owns 34 acres. Both work collaboratively to manage the park’s natural resources.

The bison were shipped to the preserve from Wind Cave National Park. Tallgrass Prairie and Conservancy staff originally planned to reintroduce 20 bison, split evenly between males and females, but fewer animals than expected were corralled during roundup last fall. The park plans to introduce more bison from Wind Cave as they become available.

The Wind Cave National Park bison herd can trace its origins back to 14 animals transferred to the park in 1913 by the New York Zoological Society, also known as the Bronx Zoo, with six more bison coming from Yellowstone National Park in 1916. These bison are considered quite valuable within the bison restoration community, since the Wind Cave herd is one of only two known public herds in the United States thought to be free of historic cattle interbreeding.

Interest in the bison herd has remained high with visitors, according to Park Service officials. The herd can be viewed either on foot or by tour bus, as park trails run through or adjacent to the bison pasture. This interest increased significantly over the 2010 Mother’s Day weekend with the birth of a calf, a female, on Sunday, May 9th. The bison calf is the first born on the property since at least the mid-1800s.

"It's going to be great to see them grow," said Wendy Lauritzen, the park’s superintendent. "They're needed here."