Rare White Buffalo Calf Spotted in Yellowstone National Park

20 June 2024 Off By Bambam

“Oh my gosh! We’re in Yellowstone this week and just missed this birth by a few minutes,” wrote photographer Erin Braaten in a Facebook post on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. “A white bison calf!”

The frequency of occurrence of white bison, or white buffalo, is unknown. One stat floating around the internet is that a white bison appears once in ten million births, a figure that is incorrectly credited to the National Bison Association (NBA). The NBA posted a press release in June 2023 refuting this claim.

“The truth is we simply don’t know the occurrence of a white bison because, to my knowledge, no one has ever kept track,” Jim Matheson, executive director of the NBA, writes in the release.

There are several possible causes of a white bison birth. The calf may be albino or leucistic. Or it may have a rare genetic condition that causes it to be born white, darkening to brown as it matures. A white calf may also be a “beefalo” — a bison-cattle cross — that inherited white coloration from its cattle ancestors.

While other animal rarities, such as these albino giraffes, may make headlines, a white buffalo calf holds special significance for Indigenous cultures.

“There are prophecies about white buffalo calves being born at a time of great change,” Jason Baldes, a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe and executive director of the Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative, said to National Geographic. “We have stories of the Eastern Shoshone people hunting and pursuing white bison, or white buffalo, from well over a century ago.”

Learn more about American bison here.

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