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First known white bison calf born inside Yellowstone National Park has not been seen since early June

“About one in five calves do not make it through the first few weeks of life through the first summer,” said YNP Senior Bison Biologist Chris Geremia.
Posted at 2:39 PM, Jul 01, 2024

Yellowstone National Park is confirming the first-known birth of a white bison calf inside the park. The birth of the calf quickly turned into a celebration, especially for Plains Indian tribes. However, park staff have been unable to locate the calf since June 4.

Yellowstone National Park Senior Bison Biologist Chris Geremia describes the birth of the white bison calf as a one-in-a-million event.

“It may reflect the presence of some natural genetic legacy that was preserved in these animals and thought to be lost,” said Geremia.

Until the night of June 4.

Geremia says many people like park visitors, commercial guides, and professional wildlife watchers documented seeing the calf in the Lamar Valley.

“Multiple sightings, photographs, and reports from credible sources,” said Geremia.

WATCH PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Indigenous tribes honor birth of rare white buffalo calf

Indigenous tribes honor birth of a rare white buffalo calf in Yellowstone at sacred ceremony

He says photos show the calf is leucistic and not an albino. For instance, it has black eyes and hooves with some pigmentation.

“Versus a true albino,” said Geremia. “We probably don’t even know how rare it is for a white bison to be born—it takes a lot of calves to be born to have a white calf in the wild.”

But what people are wondering now is, where did it go?

“About one in five calves do not make it through the first few weeks of life through the first summer,” said Geremia.

He says there have been no confirmed sightings of the white calf since its birth on June 4.

“Bison calves have to live with predators,” said Geremia. “They have to cross these massive rivers that are just peaking.”

It’s a big world out there for a small bison calf and even though it sounds like the odds may be against the animal, Geremia says park staff are continuing to search for it.

He added that park staff recognizes the cultural significance of the white bison calf for Indigenous people.

On June 27, we visited a ceremony held on the sovereign land of the Shoshone Bannock, just outside of West Yellowstone.

At the end of the ceremony, the name given to the white buffalo calf was revealed: Wakan Gli, which means "return sacred."