Rare albino bison born in N. Dakota

Friday, August 8, 2003

GRANVILLE, N.D. -- North Dakota has its second rare albino bison.

The bull calf was found May 5 on the Big Sky Buffalo Ranch near Granville. Owner Duane Woodall held off on a birth announcement until he was sure the calf would survive.

"He's very healthy," said Angie Bachmeier, Woodall's granddaughter and a ranch spokeswoman. "Our vet looked him over. He's sensitive to sunlight, being an albino. But otherwise, he's doing very well."

The calf has been named Mystical, Bachmeier said.

North Dakota's other true albino bison is White Cloud, an 8-year-old female at the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown. She was born on a ranch near Michigan, in eastern North Dakota's Nelson County.

Four white bison were born last summer near Westhope, descendants of a true white bison herd, but they have since turned darker.

Mystical's eyes and skin have no color except a light shade of pink. Almost everything on his body is white, including eyelashes, horns and hoofs.

He roams in a McHenry County pasture with hundreds of other bison, though his vision is poor.

He was named Mystical because it was misty and raining on May 5 when Woodall, who first thought the calf was a coyote, found him near the bison herd.

Bachmeier said Mystical feeds on his mother's milk and prairie grasses, the same as other bison calves.

"The other buffalo know there's something different about him," Bachmeier said. "They don't shun him, and they're not mean to him, but they know he's different somehow. It's basically a freak of nature that we got an albino."

Bachmeier said the odds are one in 6 million that a true albino bison will be born -- and two of the three albinos born in the last 70 years are now in North Dakota.

The only other known true albino in the past century, Big Medicine, was born in the 1930s and died in 1959, she said.

Bachmeier, who gives regular tours of the ranch, refuses to put a dollar value on the new 150-pound calf. She said her family plans to keep Mystical.

Indian tribes consider albino bison to be sacred. Bachmeier said members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and the Spirit Lake tribe have stopped by to see Mystical and pray for him, and have left medicine bundles of braided sweetgrass, sage, tobacco and a feather.


On the Net:

Big Sky Buffalo Ranch: http://bigskybuffalolcom

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