Birth of white bison in Yellowstone a ‘one-in-a-million’ event

Yellowstone National Park on Friday confirmed the first-known birth of a white bison calf inside the park earlier this month.

Bison calves are typically reddish at birth and are affectionally called “red dogs” until their fur changes to a mottled brown as they age.

Some on social media have referred to the white calf as a “spirit animal” because of cultural beliefs. But there have been no confirmed sightings of the white calf since its birth on June 4. (About 1 in 5 bison calves die shortly after birth because of natural hazards.)

The park, describing this as a “one-in-a-million” event, issued a news release containing the following bullet points:

At this time, Yellowstone National Park can confirm, based on multiple creditable sightings, that a white bison calf was born in Lamar Valley on June 4, 2024.

Yellowstone’s Center for Resources Bison Management Team received numerous reports and photos of the calf taken on June 4 from park visitors, professional wildlife watchers, commercial guides and researchers.

Photos provided to park biologists indicate the calf is leucistic (black eyes and hooves with some pigmentation), rather than an albino animal.

The park explained that births of white bison calves were extremely rare even when tens of millions of bison roamed the plains – before their near-extinction in the 19th century.

“The birth of a white bison calf may reflect the presence of a natural genetic legacy that was preserved in Yellowstone’s bison, which has revealed itself because of the successful recovery of a wild bison population of 3,000 to 6,000 animals,” the park stated.

The park added: “The NPS acknowledges the cultural significance of a white bison calf for American Indians.”

About 4,500 bison resided within Yellowstone National Park before the 2024 calving season began.

–White bison calf image courtesy of Jordan Creech

Story originally appeared on For The Win