A baby bison was born Wednesday on the Wind River Reservation, for the first time in 130 years, according to a news release from the National Wildlife Federation.
“The buffalo calf represents the culmination of years of work to bring this iconic species back as well as the rebirth of the Eastern Shoshone’s cultural and ecological connections to buffalo,” the news release said.
The birth comes less than a year after the animals were released back to the land in November 2016 after they were wiped out by hunting.
Ten bison stepped onto the reservation early that month to a crowd of jubilant onlookers. Advocates of the reintroduction had worked for decades to bring them back to their native land. This birth represents progress in the effort to strengthen the new Wind River herd.
“The circle was completed with the return of buffalo in November. With the birth of this calf, we recognize that the buffalo’s return wasn’t a finale, but the beginning of a new chapter in bison conservation for the tribes,” Garrit Voggesser, tribal partnerships director for the National Wildlife Federation, said in the release.
Jason Baldes, bison representative for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, added, “Today, Boy-Zhan Bi-Den — Buffalo Return in the Shoshone language — has been blessed with the birth of its first buffalo calf. The birth of the calf is an honor bestowed upon us by the Creator, an homage to what we are doing to bring buffalo back to our lands and culture.”
The tribe and the animals are closely connected, as the extermination of the bison by white settlers was a major factor in forcing Native Americans away from their homes and onto reservations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that in 1872-73, for example, about 5,000 bison were killed each day.
“It is one of the greatest wildlife genocides on the Earth,” Colin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said at the time of last year’s reintroduction.
That cruelty is part of why the federal government is taking part in the release — to begin making up for the buffalo extermination and subsequent events, a Fish and Wildlife official said in 2016.
When the 10 animals were released in 2016, the tribe and federation hoped to see the herd grow to about 1,000 animals in the next 10 years. It has a history of successful reintroduction, having already brought pronghorn and bighorn sheep back to the reservation after exterminations caused by hunting.