In Illinois, a baby bison was born for the first time in 200 years. The birth was quite unexpected. However, it has given ecologists hope for the future of Illinois’ bison population.
Restoration ecologist Cody Considine confirmed the baby bison was born at Illinois’ Nachusa Grasslands prairie restoration project. He said the mother and her calf both appear to be healthy. However, he and his colleagues do not want to disturb the bison for a closer look.
In 2014, a total of 30 bison were transported to the preserve from a similar preserve in Iowa. Although Considine suspected some of the females were pregnant, they were not expected to give birth until next month.
As reported by Herald Review, the calf was discovered by Nachusa Grasslands prairie restoration project director Bill Kleiman on Monday.
Historically, bison were plentiful throughout the United States. However, by the early 1900s, the magnificent beasts were nearly extinct.
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) April 6, 2015
Conservationists blame commercial hunting and loss of habitat for depleting our nation’s bison population. Although numerous organizations are dedicated to replenishing the numbers, it is a slow and difficult process.
As discussed by the World Conservation Society, the United States bison population has grown to an estimated 500,000 due to conservation efforts. However, a majority are confined to ranches and preserves. The actual number of bison living in the wild is estimated to be 20,000.
Bison Baby by Kelly Johnson pic.twitter.com/zdOKkT71Wg
— Abhishek Gautam (@Abhishek1989MRT) April 2, 2015
It is unknown whether Illinois’ baby bison is a female or male, but the calf’s continued health is far more important than its sex.
The Nachusa Grasslands prairie restoration project currently provides the bison with 500 acres of protected land. By late 2016, the enclosed area will be expanded by an estimated 1,000 acres.
Later this year, conservationists plan to introduce bison to Illinois’ Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie as well. The preserve, which is located near Wilmington, is owned by the United States Forest Service.
Illinois’ first baby bison in 200 years was born a bit early. However, Considine expects several others will be born throughout the month of May.
As reported by Nature Conservancy, the bison are viewable from public roads — with a pair of binoculars. As stated in the site’s FAQ section, the bison need time to acclimate to their new surroundings. Therefore, closer viewing is currently unavailable.
In the coming months, the Nachusa Grasslands prairie restoration project plans to open a viewing center, which will allow visitors to have a closer look without disturbing the animals.
Illinois’ baby bison birth is an important step in the effort to increase and sustain the population.
[Image via Marcia Straub/Shutterstock]