Throwback Thursday: Baby Bison by Jack Ballard
For North American hoofed mammals, the month spanning a couple of weeks on either side of Memorial Day is the height of the birthing season. Most elk calves, deer fawns, and bighorn sheep lambs are born during this time. Moose and pronghorn also birth their young after spring is well underway. However, there is one hoofed mammal of the American West that births its babies sooner. American Bison (bison bison) may begin calving as early as April, sometimes dropping their young to an earth that is still covered in snow.
While some young ungulates such as pronghorn and mountain goats appear much like miniature adults, baby bison look quite different than their parents. Their coat is reddish brown or golden, much lighter than the dark brown and nearly black hair found on adult bison. Baby bison lack the curving horns found on adults of both sexes, although a close inspection of a newborn bison’s head by an expert can reveal the tiny buds from which its horns will grow.
Healthy, adult bison are essentially immune from predation. However, wolves and grizzly bears will readily attempt to catch newborn bison. If a bison herd stands its ground against a potential predation attempt by wolves, the young are normally safe. If the herd panics and young bison are separated from the adults, they are much more easily taken by wolves.
Impressive and powerful, it’s not likely that anyone would describe an adult bison as “cute.” But for the first couple months of life, their babies certainly fit the definition, perhaps an odd descriptor for little ones that may one day weigh a ton.