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Newborn buffalo calf roams at French Creek

Charleston Gazette photo by Rick Steelhammer The new bison calf, born earlier this month, nuzzles her mother while taking an afternoon stroll. When fully grown, the young bison could weigh more than one ton.
Charleston Gazette photo by Rick Steelhammer
The new bison calf, born earlier this month, nuzzles her mother while taking an afternoon stroll. When fully grown, the young bison could weigh more than one ton.

FRENCH CREEK, W.Va. — While the five adult American bison at the West Virginia Wildlife Center are in the midst of shedding their shaggy woolen capes for the summer, a new arrival at their grassy enclosure is looking sleek and trim in her new reddish-brown coat.

Born on May 2, the new bison, who remains unnamed in keeping with Wildlife Center policy, was a bit of a surprise to the staff here, who said the new calf’s mother wasn’t showing obvious signs of pregnancy until a few weeks before delivery.

While bison calves born in captivity are not exactly a rarity, “it’s not something that happens year-to-year,” said Paul Johansen, assistant chief in charge of game management for the West Virginia DNR, which operates the Wildlife Center.

The new bison calf was born without incident, and began walking and nursing within a matter of minutes.

“The calf will nurse for four to six months before beginning to nibble on grass or grain,” said Rob Sylvester, wildlife biologist at the French Creek facility, which showcases wildlife species native to West Virginia now and in the past.

On Tuesday, the young bison seemed to be at home as she roamed the five-acre fenced-in range alloted to her herd. She strolled through the compound at her mother’s side, stopping occasionally to nuzzle and nurse. When fully grown, she could weigh up to 2,400 pounds.

The Wildlife Center’s first bison, a male and female from Oklahoma, arrived here in 1954, when the Upshur County facility was known as the French Creek Game Farm. Today, six adults and the new calf make up the herd…

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