Say “Hello” to the First Baby Bison of 2017 at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve!
March 15, 2017
Signs that spring is officially here are popping up at the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Pawhuska! The first bouncing baby bison was seen this morning being bashful and walking closely alongside its mother.
In the spring of 2016, 561 calves were born. Preserve staff expect another 600-700 this spring making now a great time to visit the preserve to view the precious bundles of joy along with the 2,100 adult bison that roam freely. Young bison are fun to watch as they can be rather playful. Visitors may see calves frolicking, chasing, battling, butting, kicking, and racing. Such activity aids muscle development and coordination important later in life.
For the public’s safety, when visiting the bison, please observe the following rules:
- Rule #1: Stay in your car!
- Rule #2: Stay in your car!
- Rule #3: Stay in your car!
Bison are fast - they can go from 0 to oops (up to 35mph) faster than you can say it! If they're blocking the road, be patient. Though they may be big and fuzzy, bison are wild animals and are not cuddly.
The preserve is open daily from dawn to dusk with no charge for admittance and can be accessed via county roads. There are free ranging bison herds, scenic turnouts, hiking trails, picnic tables, breezeway information and public restrooms at the Historic Bunkhouse. The gift shop/visitor center is open from March through mid-December from 10:00am to 4:00pm. It is operated by docents, and is typically open every day.
Consisting of almost 40,000 acres near Pawhuska in Osage County, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie left in the world! Since 1993, The Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma has proven successful at restoring this fully-functioning portion of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem with the use of free-roaming bison. The herd started with 300 bison in 1993 and continues to thrive despite the recent drought. Learn more by visiting nature.org/tallgrass.
Directions to the preserve: From downtown Pawhuska, drive north on Kihekah at the intersection of Highway 60 (at the corner of the triangle-shaped building), follow signs to the preserve headquarters (approximately 18 miles).
- Though “buffalo” is commonly used, “bison” is the correct term for the mammals on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. According to scientists, true buffalo are confined to Africa and Southeast Asia.
- Before the settlements of modern civilization, around 30 million bison roamed across North America. By 1890, fewer than 600 plains bison were left alive.
- Bison are the largest native animals on the North American continent.
- Full-grown bison bulls stand about 6.5 feet at the shoulder and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.
- Adult bison consume more than 30 pounds of grass (air-dry weight) in a day.
- Bison can jump 6 feet vertically. Because they reportedly can jump more than 7 feet horizontally, "bisonguards" on the Preserve are 14 feet wide. (This is double the standard width of a cattleguard.)
- Bison can run at speeds up to 35 miles per hour.
- Bison are powerful swimmers, navigating with all but hump, muzzle, and top of the head submerged.
- Both sexes have horns; the cow's are smaller. A bull bison can be identified from a cow by wider, thicker horns; a wider skull; and a generally more massive structure.
- The gestation period for bison is 9.5 months.
- Bison calves are generally born in the spring and weigh 30-40 pounds.
- The bison was named the state mammal of Oklahoma by the legislature in 1972.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.