WASHINGTON - Just in time for Mother's Day, five wild baby bison have been born on the plains of eastern Montana. The bison are part of a wild herd that live on a new prairie wildlife preserve and are the first bison to be born on this part of the Great Plains, the heart of their historic range, in 120 years.
"These baby bison are the perfect Mother's Day present for anyone who loves prairie wildlife," said Sean Gerrity, president of the American Prairie Foundation (APF), the nonprofit owner of the prairie preserve. "These baby bison are entering this world just as the grass is starting to grow after a long, cold winter. Just a few days old, they're already running around, playing and chasing each other."
Although around a half-million bison live in North America, just 20,000 or so can be considered "wild" and most wild bison are beset by problems such as small herd size, intensive management and culling practices, absence of major predators, and non-native diseases. All told, there is no viable bison herd that is free of problematic diseases such as brucellosis or exists under natural conditions. In other words, there is no bison herd large enough or healthy enough to maintain the long-term genetic health of the species.
"These baby bison are a lot more than just cute, although they certainly are that," said Dr. Curt Freese, director of the Northern Great Plains office of World Wildlife Fund, APF's partner on the prairie preserve. "These bison babies represent a future for our children and grandchildren that include wild bison. Most people have no idea how threatened bison are."
About the American Prairie Foundation The mission of American Prairie Foundation is to create and manage a prairie-based wildlife reserve that, when combined with public lands already devoted to wildlife, will protect a unique natural habitat, provide lasting economic benefits, and improve public access to and enjoyment of the prairie landscape.