Late bison calf stopping traffic in Yellowstone

A late bison calf and his mother nap in the snow in Yellowstone National Park Photo: Beth PrattAlthough most of Yellowstone is blanketed in snow after the recent series of storms, visitors to the park's north entrance have been stopping to photograph a bright splash of orange against the white landscape. The source? A fuzzy bison calf born late in the season.

Bison babies don’t resemble their parents at all—although adult bison are magnificent creatures, it’s a stretch to call them cute. But bison calves are pretty darn adorable. The starkly different appearance of the calves from the adults—especially the brick red color of their coats—has caused some park visitors to ask about the “little orange dogs” running with the bison.

A bison usually gives birth in late April through May to one calf (twins occur occasionally) after a nine and a half month gestation period. For the first few days, the calf spends most of its time resting, but soon becomes energetic enough to explore its surroundings.

The orange-reddish coat typically fades after about ten weeks, gradually darkening until it transforms into the dark brown hue of the adult bison. As this little calf was still sporting the bright color, he must have been born late in the fall. Winter is a rough season on wildlife in Yellowstone—especially the young—so the late birth of this calf puts it at a disadvantage. Visitors and park employees are rooting for the calf to survive the winter.

Visitors can look for the calf when visiting Yellowstone at the north entrance gate and on the road between Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs.

For more information on bison, visit the Greater Yellowstone Science Learning Center.