Park welcomes five baby bison

Photo courtesy of Metro Parks
A mother bison nurses her baby, one of five baby bison born at Battelle-Darby Creek Metro Park this spring.

(Posted June 20, 2024)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Battelle-Darby Creek Metro Park welcomed five baby bison this spring. They were born at the park between May 24 and June 16.

Park staff knew to expect them, just not precisely when. A veterinarian performs wellness checks on the herd a couple of times a year. Earlier this spring, the vet let park staff know five of the females were pregnant. Staffers discover the babies during routine perimeter checks of the bison’s summer pasture.

“The babies weigh 30 to 40 pounds at birth. By the fall vet check, they will weigh 300 pounds,” said Jill Snyder, Metro Parks visitor engagement manager. Bison tip the scales at about 800 pounds at maturity.

This year’s new additions bring the current herd count to 14: one adult male, eight adult females, and five babies.

Metro Parks first introduced bison at Battelle-Darby Creek in 2011 in partnership with The Wilds, a conservation center in southeast Ohio for threatened and endangered animal species. The park started with six females.

Since then, several babies have been born at the park, but rather than allow the herd to grow without limit, the park works with The Wilds to maintain a head count that makes sense for the space and food available to the animals and to ensure genetic diversity. To do this, some members of the herd are rotated out of the park to other locations, including The Wilds.

Photo courtesy of Metro Parks
Baby bison are known as “red dogs” because their coats are a rusty orange-red color.

“For us, it isn’t as much about having a big herd, but more about the habitat being as true to what it once was,” Snyder said.

The bison are part of the park’s habitat restoration project. For example, some prairie plants only grow after the seeds are processed through a bison’s gut and with the help of the bison’s hooves churning up the soil.

“It’s a way to learn how a prairie benefits from having large animals on it, since historically they would have been there,” Snyder said.

The public is welcome to visit the park for a chance to see the bison which are currently located in the summer pasture in front of the nature center. The park also has a winter pasture behind the nature center.

Snyder notes that unlike animals at a zoo, the bison aren’t always easy to spot. They roam a much larger area and can be shrouded by tall grasses. Additionally, mothers sometimes hide their young.

“You have to be patient and let them show themselves,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Metro Parks
With the birth of five babies this spring, the bison count at Battelle-Darby Creek Metro Park currently sits at 14: one male, eight females, and five babies.

The park has a bison camera that helps rangers monitor where the bison are in the pasture. Snyder recommends visitors stop by the center first for help from a ranger who can point them in the right direction for the best chance to see the bison. She also recommends visitors bring binoculars.

Fun fact: Baby bison are called “red dogs” because their coats are a rusty orange-red color.

“It’s a good way to distinguish them when looking at the herd,” Snyder said.

To celebrate the new arrivals, the park is hosting a “Bison Baby Shower” on June 30 from 1 to 3 p.m. Baby shower games are planned. Follow signs from the nature center to the pasture, about a five-minute walk.

The Battelle-Darby Creek Nature Center is located at 1415 Darby Creek Dr., Galloway, just outside of West Jefferson. From April through September, the nature center is open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and the park is open 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. From October through March, the nature center is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and the park is open 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. For more information, call (614) 878-7106.

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