Baby Bison at West Virginia Wildlife Center
On May 2nd, a baby bison was born at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center. Paul Johansen, the Assistant Chief of Game Management for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said that these animals once roamed this region in large numbers.
“The woodland bison were actually quite widespread throughout mid Appalachia, including West Virginia. Early reports from some of the early settlers indicate very large and widely scattered populations of the bison. Those animals unfortunately were extricated from the state back in the early 1800s and they no longer exist. It was actually a subspecies of the bison that now occurs out in the west. The only bison that are free ranging now do occur in the western states. We have no buffalo that are ranging freely here in the eastern part of the United States and certainly not in West Virginia.”
Johansen explained that the woodland bison helped to shape the geography of this area.
“From what the reports and historical accounts tell us, those bison—of course they’re very large animals—they actually left trails or in some cases what people have described almost as buffalo roads across the landscape here in West Virginia. The Native Americans used those trails as transportation lines and traveled back and forth along those. And then, when the Europeans settled here in West Virginia, many of those old ‘buffalo roads,’ if you will, actually turned into turnpikes or roads that were used and upgraded by people to engage in commercial trade and travel from one area to another.”
“You can imagine how thick and how dense some of the forested cover must have been back in the 16-1700s, and having a buffalo trail bypassing or traveling across the landscape probably was a real blessing for some of the Native Americans and then the Europeans that followed.”
While native bison no longer free range across the West Virginia landscape, several adult bison live at the wildlife center. And the newest baby bison is a sign that they still have a place in this region.
“When spring rolls around and you have a birth like this, maybe it just serves to remind us of just how wonderful West Virginia is and what a great place it is for our folks to enjoy the wildlife resources that we’re blessed with here in West Virginia.
The Wildlife Center is open to the public. Located in French Creek, WV, the Center is dedicated to presenting visitors a realistic and factual understanding of the state’s wildlife. For more information about the Center, the phone number is 304-924-6211.