Even if you don’t know a lot about bison, you probably know that they’re usually dark brown in color. Some bison calves are born with black fur, which may turn dark brown as they get older, and others are born with reddish fur that eventually turns darker. But that dark brown hue is what we’ve come to expect.
That’s why the birth of a white bison, born at Bear River State Park in Evanston, Wyoming, is drawing crowds of visitors.
In case you’re wondering, the calf, born in May, has yet to be named, as the park doesn’t even know if the calf is male or female yet.
“We’re not sure if it’s a bull calf or a heifer calf,” park superintendent Tyfani Sager told the Cowboy State Daily. “They’re real furry and it’s hard to tell right off the bat.”
What we do know is that the baby, whose mother’s name is Wyoming Hope, is only 30 pounds, which is on the small side. But it’s up on its feet, nursing and doing well.
Wyoming Hope is also white, and she is one of two heifers that Bear River State Park received from Jackson Fork Ranch in 2021. You can easily spot her in this collection of photos from what the park called the “maternity/newborn ward.” The father is one of the resident bulls at the 328-acre park.
The state park has another white bison as well, so it’s is now home to three white bison, Fox 13 reports. And while a white bison calf is unusual, it’s not unheard of. Sager explained to Fox 13 that Bear River’s white bison are not albinos, which are indeed quite rare — one in 10 million. Rather, the remaining bison that were brought back from the brink of extinction years ago have some cattle DNA that can influence color.
“This one just happens to be Charolais cattle; that’s where they get their white color,” she told Fox 13.
Other white bison calves have created a stir, too. On Aug. 20, 1994, a farmer named Dave Heider welcomed the birth of a white buffalo calf on his farm, Davalas, in Janesville, Wisconsin, about 70 miles southwest of Milwaukee. The calf, named Miracle, attracted hundreds of thousands of Native Americans to the site for more than a decade. Many tribes consider the white buffalo to be sacred and that it could signal good fortune to come. Miracle has since died, but another white calf was born there in 2006, once again attracting people of the Lakota Sioux Tribe to the farm.
While officials at Bear River State Park are clearly thrilled, they may be trying to head off an avalanche of tourists. On the Facebook page, they ask, “Please continue to give the bison room to try out motherhood and tend to their young!”
***Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the rarity of Bear River State Park’s white bison.