Fermilab’s first baby bison of the season was born on Monday morning, April 26.
According to a news release from Fermilab, the calf was the first of 16 to 18 babies expected at the particle physics research lab this year.
Robert Wilson, Fermilab’s first director, established the bison herd in 1969 as a symbol of the history of the Midwestern prairie and the laboratory’s pioneering research at the frontiers of particle physics, the release stated.
A herd of bison is a natural fit for a laboratory surrounded by nature. Fermilab hosts nearly 1,000 acres of reconstructed tallgrass prairie, as well as remnant oak savannas, marshes and forests.
Currently, the herd comprises 32 bison – 30 females and two bulls. The bulls are changed periodically to maintain the herd’s health and genetic diversity.
According to the release, the American bison nearly went extinct in the 19th century. Thanks to conservation efforts, it is no longer an endangered species, but conservation of the bison genome is still a federally recognized priority.
Fermilab has confirmed through genetic testing that the laboratory’s herd shows no evidence of cattle gene mixing. Farmers during the early settlement era would breed bison with cattle to create more tame bison or hardier cattle. Fermilab’s bison are descendants of the few hundred wild bison that were never crossed with cattle, the release stated.
To learn more about Fermilab’s bison herd, visit the section on wildlife at Fermilab on the website.
The entire Fermilab site in Batavia is closed to the public at this time, so guests are not able to see the bison.
(Note to readers: When health guidelines change, keep this fun family outing in mind.)