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Newborns on the Northern Great Plains

Newborns on the Northern Great Plains

May 2008

Springtime on the plains brought more than just the year’s first rains and prairie grasses, as WWF’s bison reintroduction project welcomed five newborn calves (and counting) to Montana’s American Prairie Reserve.  The Reserve and reintroduction are joint projects between WWF and our partner the American Prairie Foundation

Bison calves at the reserve are generally born between April and June and weigh only 40 to 50 pounds at birth. Within hours they are able to stand and can keep up with the herd, although they tend to stay close to their mothers until weaned. When fully-grown, bulls can weigh up to two tons (2,000 pounds) with cows reaching over 1,000 pounds.

The mother of the spring’s first calf is the first female brought to the American Prairie Reserve ranch as a calf to give birth. As a new mother she sometimes wandered away from her calf immediately after its birth. To ensure that the pair bonded, the ranch manager, Bill Willcutt, brought the rest of the herd into the pasture so that she had no reason to stray.

The calves are now part of a conservation herd established to restore genetically pure free-roaming bison to the plains of Montana. WWF and partners are also working to expand the bison’s available habitat to over 30,000 acres in the near future. This enlarged area will be capable of supporting approximately 300 American bison, making this one of the largest conservation herds in the United States.

WWF is leading efforts to restore bison and other keystone species to the Northern Great Plains. By bringing together local communities, landowners, government, scientists, conservation experts and industry, we are achieving lasting results in the conservation and restoration of the region’s natural heritage.

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