By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The bison herd at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is no longer a girls-only club.
Park officials introduced a male into the herd on Aug. 28. About 4 years old, he joins the six females who have called the park home since 2011. All seven of the bison are from The Wilds, a wildlife conservation center in southeast Ohio.
“If everything goes according to plan, around June we should have baby bison,” said Metro Parks spokesperson Peg Hanley.
Typically, the rutting season runs from June through late September. After the rut, males generally go off on their own, leaving the females to bear and rear the offspring.
“Given their health and past veterinary checkups, all six of our cows could have babies,” said Kevin Kasnyik, park man-ager. “We will try to keep the herd to be-tween 10 and 14. We can accommodate far more than that, but with the time and care it takes, we want to keep it to 10 to 14.”
Bison can give birth every year but usually take a year off between births. They bear one offspring at a time. Because of the animal’s size, even experts have a hard time telling when a bison is pregnant.
“Ours our healthy and rather large around the mid-section, so we’ll only be able to guess if they are pregnant,” Kasnyik said.
As for how the male and females are getting along, he said he expected some initial confrontation as the females defended their turf.
“They smelled each other a lot and chased each other, almost playfully. There were a couple of minor disputes where they were banging heads, but nothing unusual. It only took a couple of days before he was accepted.”
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is located in Galloway just outside of West Jefferson. Currently, the bison are in the prairie pasture and can be viewed from the Greenway Trail, accessible from the nature center, 1415 Darby Creek Drive, or the park’s main entrance (Cedar Ridge area), 1775 Darby Creek Drive. In October, they will move to the winter pasture located behind the Nature Center, which is equipped with viewing scopes on the back deck.
Through September, the park is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Starting in October, the park will close at 8 p.m. The bison are most active and in view early in the morning and around dusk. For more information about the park or the bison, go to www.metroparks.net.