By Andrea Cordle
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park welcomed a new bison to its herd.
In mid-August, a 2-year-old male bison arrived at the park from The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. He will not be a permanent part of the herd, but rather a visiting bull that will stay for about a year. He has one goal – to reproduce.
The bull has joined the seven female bison already at the Metro Park.
“The herd was very accepting of him,” said Kevin Kasnyik, park manager at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. “He fit right in. There were no issues.”
In 2011, the park introduced six female bison to roam on nearly 50 acres of prairie grass. In 2013, the park introduced its first male to mate with the female bison. In 2014, the first calf was born at Darby Park.
According to Kasnyik, the last visiting male impregnated five bison.
“We thought we had four calves with the introduction of the last male, but we were surprised with a fifth one,” said Kasnyik.
According to the park manager, some of the calves born at Darby Park remain with the herd, while others are sent to The Wilds.
“We have a really nice relationship with The Wilds,” said Kasnyik.
A female bison can carry a baby for about nine months. There is usually just one calf but occasionally there may be twins. Calves are born in the spring and summer. They weigh approximately 45 pounds at birth.
According to the park’s manager, the bison receive a vet checkup in the fall and in the spring.
“We will do our best to see if any of them are pregnant, but sometimes you just don’t know until they have the calf,” said Kasnyik. “We’ll have a good idea though.”
Since the introduction of the bison at Darby Park, the park has seen an increase in visitors trying to catch a glimpse of North America’s largest land mammal.
“They provide a great photo opportunity,” said Kasnyik. “They are majestic to look at.”
The park hosts a public bison program once a month in addition to working with many school groups.
“The bison give us a great opportunity for education,” said Kasnyik.
The bison also help the life cycle in the park’s prairie. The park’s staff will mow and start prairie fires to prevent invasive species, but the bison unknowingly play a large role in maintaining the prairie. According to Kasnyik, destruction is part of what is needed to keep the prairie thriving. The size alone of the bison helps in that aspect. Bison also graze and produce manure that brings in insects important to the environment.
“The bison and the environment come together,” said Kasnyik.
For more information on bison events at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, visit www.metroparks.net.