Back in July, three female bison made history after being reintroduced to a reserve in Kent, UK, making them the first wild roaming bison in Britain for thousands of years. Now, they’re making history once more with the pitter-patter of tiny bison hooves surprising their rangers.
On September 9, after not seeing the younger female for a few days, bison rangers were shocked to discover not three happy female bison, but four. Staff did not know the younger adult female was pregnant as European bison (Bison bonasus) have a nifty way of concealing their pregnancies to protect themselves from predators.
“It is difficult to detect pregnancy in bison as they naturally conceal being in calf to avoid being hunted by predators, it is a survival mechanism," Ranger Tom Gibbs explained in a statement seen by IFLScience.
The rangers are happy to report that the young female calf is doing well, running around and copying the adults in their famous dust bath rolling habit. A bull from Germany is expected to join the herd in the next few months, with the hope that the group could breed next year, but this early addition is a welcome surprise.
"When the bison took their first steps into the wild just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine that anything could come close to the elation we felt in that moment. But here we are celebrating the arrival of a bison calf... We are delighted that mother and calf are both doing well and look forward to watching the herd continue to grow and flourish in the coming months," said Mark Habben, Director of Zoo Operations at the Wildwood Trust.
The birth was not announced immediately because of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on September 8. The team felt it best to delay the announcement due to the national period of mourning, which also allowed them to take the time to confirm that the calf was healthy.
Down in the West Blean and Thornden Woods, Kent, the bison are already rewilding the ecology of the area. They act as ecosystem engineers, breaking down the vegetation to create more areas of light so other species including insects, reptiles, and birds can prosper.
This initiative is part of a collaboration by the charities the Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust, as a response to the climate and biodiversity crises. The charities have a just giving page for donations to support the new arrival and the rewilding project.