Baby bison season has officially begun at Fermilab. The first calf of the season was born this morning and both mother and baby are doing well, according to a Fermilab press release.
The very first bison herd were brought to the particle physics laboratory in 1969 by the lab’s first director, Robert Wilson, to serve as a symbol of the lab being on the frontier of physics, much as the bison represent the frontier of the Wild West.
Fermilab has previously done genetic testing on their herd and confirmed that there’s no evidence of cattle gene mixing, which means they are purebred bison.
“Bison have been bred with cattle, so there was some speculation that our bison were not 100 percent bison, so we did some genetic testing earlier this year and found out that they are, they are purebred bison which is even more of a rarity,” said former media relations manager at Fermilab, Andre Salles, in 2016.
According to the press release, American bison nearly went extinct in the 19th century but are no longer endangered species thanks to conservation efforts. However conservation of the bison genome is still a federal priority.
The current herd has 32 bison – 30 females and two bulls. The bulls are “changed periodically to maintain the herd’s health and genetic diversity,” the press release states.
Visitors can usually visit the new babies for free, but the lab is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19. Updates will be posted on the “Visit Fermilab” webpage.
Fermilab is expecting between 16 and 18 new calves this spring.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.
photo courtesy: Ryan Postel
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