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A white bison calf born near Evanston isn’t quite as rare as some think 

 Mom and baby white bison stand in a green grass pasture.
Bear River State Park

A white bison calf was recently born at a state park near Evanston. The calf has received a lot of national attention, as white bison are somewhat rare, but maybe not quite as rare as some might think.

On a windy day in May near Evanston, employees of the Bear River State Park went out to check the bison herd.

“We had a little white fuzzball surprise,” said Tyfani Sager, superintendent of the park.

It was a newly-born 30-pound white bison calf, born to another white bison named ‘Wyoming Hope.’

“She had him all cleaned up and in 15 minutes he was up walking around,” Sager said.

Some media has misreported that the calf is albino, which Sager said is inaccurate.

“Your albinos are the ones that are one in 10 million,” she said. “The population of these white bison are still fairly small, but they are definitely more populous than albinos by a long ways.”

Rather, they are part of a genetic mix with Charolais cattle DNA – which is a French breed of cattle that is also white. According to a University of Colorado report, they can be found on hobby ranches and parks in Canada and 12 states. The report goes on to say they descend from a lineage created over 100 years ago.

“In the late 1800s and early 1900s, cattlemen attempted to cross bison with cows, hoping to gather the best traits from both species into one lineage as docile and manageable as domesticated cows,” the report reads. “These experiments had unsatisfactory outcomes, but not before introducing genes from cows into bison. “

So one of the lineages was white bison. Sager pointed out that even wild brown bison have some cattle DNA too nowadays.

“They're not much different than any of the other ones that you find. They just happen to be white,” she said.

Sager said there has been an uptick in visitors hoping to see the new calf, which is yet to be named. Sager says it’ll take a couple more weeks to know its gender. In the meantime, they’re taking name suggestions.

The park currently has 15 bison – three of which are white.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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