Extremely rare white bison calf born in Yellowstone National park hints at “better times”

A white bison calf seems to be thriving in Yellowstone National Park, which bodes well for a Lakota prophecy about such rare births bringing “better times” ahead.

Erin Morin Braaten of Dancing Aspens Photography in Kalispell, Montana first photographed the unusually pale critter soon after its birth on June 4 — and then saw it again just days ago.

“Oh my gosh!!” she posted to Facebook referring to the initial sighting. “We’re in Yellowstone this week and just missed this birth by a few minutes! A white bison calf!!”

And the photos she snapped of mother and calf are stunning.

A visitor to Yellowstone captured amazing images this month of the rare birth.Photo Erin Braaten/Facebook
What a lucky sight. Photo: Erin Braaten/Facebook

The animals were spotted in Lamar Valley in the northeastern corner of the park.

Braaten saw the calf again more recently, but was only able to post a short video.

“The birth of this calf is both a blessing and warning. We must do more,” Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and the Nakota Oyate in South Dakota said in a statement.

According to Lakota legend, about 2,000 years ago, food was running out and bison were disappearing. That’s when White Buffalo Calf Woman appeared and presented a bowl pipe and a bundle to a tribal member. She showed them how to pray and promised the pipe was something that could bring buffalo to the area. She then turned into a white buffalo calf.

“And some day when the times are hard again,” Looking Horse said in retelling the legend, “I shall return and stand upon the earth as a white buffalo calf, black nose, black eyes, black hooves.”

This calf looks exactly like that as opposed to an albino calf, which would have pink features.

This birth does come after a severe winter and the deaths of hundreds of bison.

“We’ve been waiting for this day,” James Holt, Buffalo Field Campaign’s executive director, said in a statement. “This is a sign that conducting business as usual in Yellowstone isn’t enough. Along with Chief Arvol, we call on tribes and all people, to help us protect the lifeways of the wild buffalo herds in the Yellowstone ecosystem.”

Buffalo Field Campaign would like to see more protection be given to bison in Yellowstone National Park, and on the millions of acres of National Forest surrounding the park.

“Today, Yellowstone National Park suppresses their population by trapping buffalo inside the park, and the State of Montana confines buffalo to a small portion of their National Forest range, where they are hunted,” the group explained.

Yellowstone has long had a population control program in the park and has allowed routine hunts of the species.

Buffalo Field Campaign would like to see that management strategy amended.

A naming ceremony has taken place, but tribal officials declined to reveal the name of the white calf.

However, another celebration is planned for June 26 at the Buffalo Field Campaign headquarters in West Yellowstone in honour of the calf.

The National Bison Association has previously called the birth of a white bison calf a 1 in 10-million event.

The calf will be celebrated June 26. Photo: Erin Braaten/Facebook

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