Year's first newborn bison arrive on the Northern Great Plains

This spring on the great American prairie brings more than the year's first rains and renewed prairie grasses. WWF recently welcomed three newborn calves to Montana's American Prairie Reserve. The two females and one male are now part of a conservation herd originally from South Dakota's Wind Cave National Park. With the arrival of these spring calves, there are now 42 bison in the American Prairie Reserve herd. Dr. Curtis Freese, WWF's managing director of the Northern Great Plains program, explains that "for over 100 years bison were missing from this prairie landscape in the heart of their historical range. Each newborn calf is a step toward fully restoring this iconic animal and its keystone role on the prairie." By the end of spring 2007 WWF anticipates the birth of as many as six calves.

To protect the gene pool of Wind Cave's bison, WWF and its partner the American Prairie Foundation moved 34 bison to the American Prairie Reserve in Montana. Going forward, WWF will move at least 50 more bison from Wind Cave National Park to the American Prairie Reserve to maintain the genetic integrity of the new herd. Relocations will take place over the next two years, along with careful monitoring of the herd's movement, grazing, and reproduction. WWF and its partners are also working to expand the habitat available to the herd to 30,000 acres. Soon the reserve will support 300 American bison, making it one of the largest conservation herds in the United States.

Bison calves are usually born between April and June and weigh 40 to 50 pounds at birth. Within hours they are able to stand and keep up with the herd, while staying close to their mothers for protection from cougars, coyotes and other predators. When fully-grown, bulls can weigh up to two tons (2,000 pounds) with cows reaching over 1,000 pounds.