It's a boy! Or, in this case, it's a bull. Hickory Hills Park welcomed a 35-40 pound buffalo calf on May 21. This brand new calf can expect to grow to the adult average weight of about 2,200 pounds. This is the second buffalo calf born at Hickory Hills Park this season, the last being born about seven weeks ago. A buffalo calf is up and walking within 15-20 minutes of birth.
The buffalo are part of a static educational wildlife display at the park which also houses elk and white tailed deer for display. The first buffalo were brought to Hickory Hills Park in 1970 from Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska. The buffalo are traded with other conservation boards throughout the United States.
"On an average weekend in the summer, we get about 300 people that will stop at those animal pens and look at those animals," said Park Ranger Al Finke. Volunteer college students have actually counted. "We get a lot of people from Dysart, La Porte City and Waterloo that just drive out here and spend a few minutes looking at their favorite elk, buffalo, or the new babies."
Finke describes raising buffalo similar to that of raising cattle, but they are harder on fences because of their horns. Despite their massive size, buffalo are not any more aggressive than an unhandled domestic cow.
The buffalo are fed grain and hay that are often supplemented with vegetables and branches. Finke urges visitors not to feed the animals at Hickory Hills Park.
"Even though they like human food, it's not good for them and they have trouble digesting it. It's a constant problem. We lost a white tailed deer a couple of years ago because of it," said Finke.
Hickory Hills Park is pushing for a larger pen for the buffalo and elk in 2013. They hope to convert the land along the south side of the entrance into a 30-acre self-sustaining pen. Fundraising for this effort will begin this fall.