Are some of the Metro Park bison expecting?

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Photo courtesy of Metro Parks/Karl Hassel There’s a good chance one or more bison at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park are pregnant. That could mean baby bison will join the herd sometime this summer.
Photo courtesy of Metro Parks/Karl Hassel
There’s a good chance one or more bison at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park are pregnant. That could mean baby bison will join the herd sometime this summer.

By Amanda Amsel, Staff Writer

Staffers at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park are hopeful that at least one of the females in their bison herd will give birth this spring or summer.

A veterinarian specializing in large animals is due to visit the herd in coming weeks. A pregnancy check will be done at that time.    

The park is home to seven bison, including one male introduced to the herd in August of last year. The females have been at the park since 2011.

 “There has been some behavior by the male that would indicate he has impregnated some of the females,” said Ricardo Granados, a park naturalist. “The male has separated each of the females from the rest of the herd at one time or another and has not let allowed them to interact with anyone. This is done when a male impregnates a female.” Such behavior doesn’t ensure pregnancy, but is a good sign.

Even though mating season is typically from late June through September, park staffers believe their male may have mated with the females into late October.

“Bison are pregnant for nine and a half months, so if any of the females are pregnant they could have calves between June and August,” Granados said.

Other than the male’s behavior, it is difficult to tell if a female is pregnant without a veterinarian’s exam. Because bison are massive animals, weight gain is hard to detect and, because they chew their cud lying down, lethargy isn’t a fail-proof indicator.

“These females can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, so it is hard to look at them and tell if they are pregnant,” said Peg Hanley, Metro Parks spokesperson. “Our largest female is actually larger than the male, if that tells you anything.”

Photo courtesy of Metro Parks Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park visitors are invited to guess how many baby bison will be born at the park this summer. The guessing game jars are set up at the Nature Center.
Photo courtesy of Metro Parks
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park visitors are invited to guess how many baby bison will be born at the park this summer. The guessing game jars are set up at the Nature Center.

This spring, the veterinarian will check to see that the bison are in general good health and look for visual signs that the females are pregnant.

“If they still can’t determine if they are pregnant, they will do a blood analysis,” Granados said.

Should one or more of the females be pregnant, park staffers will let nature take its course and try not to interfere when it comes time for labor and delivery.

 “We try to remain as hands off as possible,” Granados said. “The only time we step in is during emergency situations. If some-thing goes wrong, we have a system in place and can help.”

Calves weigh 35 to 50 pounds at birth. By the time they are 6 months old, they can weigh as much as 350 pounds.

After birth, a calf stays close to its mother until it is old enough to go out on its own. If it is a female, when it gets older, it will stay with other females while the males tend to be loners.

In anticipation of baby bison, staff at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park are holding a guessing game. Seven jars, numbered zero through six, sit on a table at the Nature Center. Part visitors are invited to drop a bead in the jar that corresponds to the number of bison they guess will be born this year. Those who turn out to be correct win bragging rights.

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is located at 1775 Darby Creek Drive, Galloway. Take Route 40 east out of West Jefferson, turn right on Darby Creek Drive and proceed approximately three miles. The entrance to the nature center is on the right at 1415 Darby Creek Drive, followed a short distance away by the main park entrance, also on the right. For more information, go to www.metroparks.net.

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