White bison calf spotted at Yellowstone: See photos


A rare white bison spotted in Yellowstone National Park has social media users in awe.

Erin Braaten, an outdoor photographer from Kalispell, Montana, captured the animal on camera.

“It was pretty amazing,” she told USA TODAY on Tuesday, adding that she initially thought it was a coyote or something else. “It just seemed really odd for it to be there and we got stuck in traffic. And so I took my camera out and looked back and saw that it was actually a white bison calf that had just been born.”

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Her family was about 100 yards away from the bison. It was across a river that was flowing pretty quickly.

“They were able to experience it too,” she said. “It was just kind of a very neat, magical time for us all to see this.”

Braaten said she was equipped with her own camera that day since she was in Yellowstone. She usually keeps it on her when she’s in the area because she never knows what she’s going to see. She has even seen lots of bears in the area.

She said she sees cows in the area often, as well as bison. This is the first time she has seen a white bison though.

White bison born in Wyoming last spring

The bison isn’t the first making headlines as of late. 

Last spring, a white bison was born at Bear River State Park in Evanston, Wyoming. 

Calling the new addition a “little white ball of fluff,” the white calf was born with four reddish-brown colored bison calves. The white bison calf is the first born in the 32-year-old park’s history.

How do the rare bison get their white color?

White bison appear the way they do typically because of albinism and leucism, conditions that can cause an animal to have white fur, hair, skin or feathers, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The conditions are caused by a lack of cellular pigments. 

Leucism can cause the entire animal to appear white, or just patches. Albino animals typically have pink eyes while leucistic animals don’t.

White bison are typically albino, leucistic, meaning they have white fur with blue eyes, or beefalo, a bison-cattle crossbreed.

Native Americans consider white bison to be sacred, according to African Safari Wildlife Park. In fact, one social media user on Instagram came across the photographer’s post about the white bison and chimed in. “Thank you for these photos,” the Instagram user wrote. “You cannot imagine the meaning for us Lakota as a people.”

White bison are so rare that it’s estimated there are only one out of every 10 million bison births, according to the African Safari Wildlife Park.

The animals can weigh anywhere from 701 pounds to 2,200 pounds and they can measure 5-to-6 feet. White bison can live for 15 years in the wild or even 25 years in captivity, the safari park said on its website.

Photographer got to witness rare bison with her family

Braaten, who captured a photo of the most recent white bison calf in Yellowstone National Park, is a mother of eight children ranging from ages 16 to 30. She had three of her youngest children with her that day.

Her family had been camping for a week and each day, they went to different sections of the park. They were in Lamar Valley, where people often see wolves and different animals. They spotted the white bison on their first day.

She said she’s a little surprised to see the reaction her photos have received.

They live close to Glacier National Park and she first got into photography taking family photos and photos of her family’s farm.

“I started doing landscapes and then wildlife,” she said. “People just enjoy them and so it has just kind of grown … It’s great therapy.”

Keep up with Braaten’s photography at www.facebook.com/DancingAspensPhotography and www.instagram.com/dancing_aspens_photo.

Contributing: Camille Fine

Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757. Follow her on Twitter at @SaleenMartin or email her at [email protected].


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