Fermilab is known for cutting-edge experiments, particle physics research—and an adorable herd of bison. On April 26, baby bison season officially began at the lab. The first calf of the year was born in the morning, and both mother and baby are doing well.
Fermilab is expecting between 16 and 18 new calves this spring.
Robert Wilson, Fermilab’s first director, established the bison herd in 1969 as a symbol of the history of the Midwestern prairie and the laboratory’s pioneering research at the frontiers of particle physics.
A herd of bison is a natural fit for a laboratory surrounded by nature. Fermilab hosts nearly 1,000 acres of reconstructed tallgrass prairie, as well as remnant oak savannas, marshes and forests.
Currently, the herd comprises 32 bison — 30 females and two bulls. The bulls are changed periodically to maintain the herd’s health and genetic diversity.
The American bison nearly went extinct in the 19th century. Thanks to conservation efforts, it is no longer an endangered species, but conservation of the bison genome is still a federally recognized priority.
Fermilab has confirmed through genetic testing that the laboratory’s herd shows no evidence of cattle gene mixing. Farmers during the early settlement era would breed bison with cattle to create more tame bison or hardier cattle. Fermilab’s bison are descendants of the few hundred wild bison that were never crossed with cattle.
To learn more about Fermilab’s bison herd, please visit the section on wildlife at Fermilab on our website.
The entire Fermilab site in Batavia is closed to the general public at this time, so visits to view the bison are not currently possible. Updates will be posted on the Visit Fermilab webpage.