Last month, on a farm below Mohawk Mountain in Goshen, Connecticut, a 30-pound bull calf was born to Bison #7. The calf is white and extremely rare — it’s said that the chances for having a white bison are one in ten million — and the calf’s birth is being hailed as an auspicious event.
Marian White Mouse of Wanblee, South Dakota, is planning to fly with her family to Connecticut for a July 28 naming ceremony that will likely draw crowds and could last for four days. White Mouse is a member of the Oglala Lakota people and, as she tells the New York Times,
… a white bison was believed to be a manifestation of the White Buffalo Calf Maiden, or Ptesan Wi. She is revered as a prophet, who in a time of famine taught the Lakotas seven sacred rituals and gave them their most important symbol of worship, the sacred pipe.
“They are very rare, and when a white bison is born there is a reason for each one to be here,” Mrs. White Mouse said. “It’s such a blessing for someone to take care of a bison like Peter Fay will. I told him when it was born, ‘You don’t even know what you have on your hands here.’ ”
The farm’s owner, Peter Fay, said that, based on research of the calf’s mother and father, he is sure that he is all bison, “without any intermingling with cattle.” To be sure, Fay has sent DNA samples for testing.
Keith Aune, a senior conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, noted that some white bison are indeed albinos and struggle to survive in the wild as “they lack the black skin that absorbs sunlight during harsh winters.”
Earlier this year, a white bison was killed in Texas in what some believe was a hate crime against Native Americans. Fay says he himself or someone else watches the field where the calf is day and night.
Just weeks before the birth of the bison, the Senate introduced the National Bison Legacy Act, which would designate the bison as the US’s “national mammal” (no animal has yet been such). There are currently 15 co-sponsors, including Connecticut’s two senators.
There are now about 500,000 bison in the US, thanks to conservation efforts in the West and commercial demand. But once there were perhaps some 40 million, until they were nearly hunted into extinction: Certainly the birth of the white bull calf last month is, at the very least, a sign of hope.
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