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For the first time since the birth of a rare white bison calf on June 4, 2024 in Yellowstone National Park, national park officials acknowledged its birth. The acknowledgement came in a press release yesterday. The press release indicated that the birth was the first known birth of a white bison in Yellowstone National Park.

White bison are exceedingly rare and are often considered a sacred symbol among various Native American tribes. The white coloration may result from a genetic mutation known as leucism, which causes patches of white coloration on the skin or fur. The birth of a white bison calf in the wild is believed to occur in 1 in 1 million births or even less frequently. 

“Yellowstone’s Center for Resources Bison Management Team received numerous reports and photos of the calf taken on June 4 from park visitors, professional wildlife watchers, commercial guides and researchers,” the press release said.

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The unique white calf was given the name Wakan Gli–which means “Return Sacred”in Lakita–in a ceremony during a traditional Lakota ceremony on Wednesday by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe and Bundle.

Even with the acknowledgement of the Wakan Gli’s birth, there have been no additional sightings of the young bison since June 4.

“To date, park staff have been unable to locate the calf,” the press release stated. “To our knowledge, there have been no confirmed sightings by park visitors since June 4.”

Without sightings, it is not known if Wakan Gli is still alive. Each spring, about 1 in 5 bison calves die shortly after birth due to natural hazards, according to national park officials. 

Bison calves are born in a single pulse during late spring and early summer. The national park service completes an annual post-calving count each August.  

The birth of a white bison calf was a rare natural phenomenon that once occurred before the near extinction of bison in the late 19th century, when bison numbered in the tens of millions. 

The birth of a white bison calf may reflect the presence of a natural genetic legacy that was preserved in Yellowstone’s bison, which has revealed itself because of the successful recovery of a wild bison population of 3,000-6,000 animals. 

The bison population fluctuates from 3,000 to 6,000 animals in two subpopulations, defined by where they gather for breeding. The northern herd breeds in the Lamar Valley and on the high plateaus around it. The central herd breeds in Hayden Valley.

The birth of a white bison calf was a rare natural phenomenon that once occurred before the near extinction of bison in the late 19th century, when bison numbered in the tens of millions. 

The birth of a white bison calf may reflect the presence of a natural genetic legacy that was preserved in Yellowstone’s bison, which has revealed itself because of the successful recovery of a wild bison population of 3,000-6,000 animals. 

The bison population fluctuates from 3,000 to 6,000 animals in two subpopulations, defined by where they gather for breeding. The northern herd breeds in the Lamar Valley and on the high plateaus around it. The central herd breeds in Hayden Valley.

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].