BATAVIA – Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s newest addition to its bison herd was staying close to its mother Wednesday afternoon.
The bison calf was born Saturday morning, but Cleo Garcia, senior groundskeeper at Fermilab, hopes it won’t be the last one born this spring.
“I’m hoping in the next two weeks for four or five more,” said Garcia, who helps take care of the bison. The size of the herd currently is 25, he said.
Although Fermilab is known best for its high energy physics research, the laboratory also maintains a herd of bison. The bison are a popular attraction this time of year because of new calves being born.
Garcia has been working with the bison for five years.
“I like being around animals,” he said.
Robert Wilson, Fermilab’s first director, brought the first bison – a bull and four cows – to Fermilab in 1969. According to Fermilab officials, Wilson wanted to recognize and strengthen Fermilab’s connection to the area’s prairie heritage. Today’s bison are descendants of those animals.
Bison are the heaviest land mammals in North America. Adult males stand as tall as 6 feet at the shoulders and weigh between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds, according to The Nature Conservancy’s website, www.nature.org.
The animals have become a hit with Fermilab campus visitors, who can watch them roam on 80 acres of land. Buffalo is the popular name often used to describe North American bison, but buffalo are distinctly different animals from bison. Although both bison and buffalo belong to the same family, Bovidae, true “buffalo,” are native only to Africa and Asia, according to the website www.allaboutwildlife.com.
Visitors are encouraged to see the bison. They can enter the Fermilab site through its Pine Street entrance in Batavia or the Batavia Road entrance in Warrenville. Admission is free, but attendees will need a valid photo ID to enter the site. Summer hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.