It is not exactly the sound of a stampede but more like the pitter-patter of little hooves that guests can hear at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo’s Great Bear Wilderness exhibit with the addition of a Bison calf born on May 16. The female calf marks the first birth of this species at Brookfield Zoo since the early 1970s.
The birth is a welcome addition for mom Leotie, age 3, and father Ron, age 12, considering the species was slaughtered to near extinction in the late 1800s. Bison were hunted for their meat and bones but primarily for their hides, which were made into clothing, machine belts, and rugs. Historically, tens of millions of bison traveled hundreds of miles over the same route through the Great Plains, shaping the land and enriching the soil. Remnants of their deeply worn paths are still visible. But by the end of the 19th century, bison populations were eliminated over 98 percent of their range in the lower 48 states, resulting in fewer than 1,000 individuals remaining.
Calves are usually born in late spring and weigh 40 to 70 pounds at birth. Their coat is reddish at first, and darkens over a period of about 15 weeks. They are able to stand within half an hour of being born and can run after a few hours. Calves begin grazing when they are just shy of a week old but continue to nurse for several months.
Read about this bison's conservation success story after the jump: