Fermilab welcomed its first baby bison of 2016 on April 26, and by the next day a herd of its social media followers were birthing puns in a tongue-in-cheek #BisonNaming contest.
What would you call our new baby bison? Tweet us with #BisonNaming. Please, no Bison McBisonface. pic.twitter.com/EkIWTXIc7F
— Fermilab (@Fermilab) April 27, 2016
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsFermilab suggested the first name, Neil EatdeGrasse Bison, and followers took it from there. Suggestions included Higgs Bison, Bisotron, Quarky, Graze Pascale and MiniBisoNe.
Physics puns aside, the best name for the baby bison might just be Clay, as its birthday happens to correspond with the US House of Representatives passing the National Bison Legacy Act proposed by Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay of Missouri and other legislators. The Act recognizes Bison as the National Mammal of the United States. The Senate passed a similar bill in December but now must review changes made by the House before the legislation goes to President Obama for final approval.
“No other indigenous species tells America’s story better than this noble creature,” says Clay. “The American bison is an enduring symbol of strength, Native American culture and the boundless western wildness. It is an integral part of the still largely untold story of Native Americans and their historic contributions to our national identity. I was proud to sponsor and help pass this legislation in the House and I truly appreciate this show of bipartisan support from my Senate colleagues as well.”
In addition to naming the bison as the US national mammal, the National Bison Legacy Act recognizes the historical, cultural and economic significance of the bison, which is the largest land mammal in America and revered by many Native American tribes as a sacred and spiritual symbol of their heritage.
More than 40 million bison once roamed across most of North America, but by the late 1800s fewer than one thousand bison remained. The species is acknowledged as the first American conservation success story, having been brought back from the brink of extinction by a concerted effort of ranchers, conservationists and politicians to save the species in the early 20th century.
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt and the American Bison Society led an effort to save bison from extinction by establishing a captive breeding program at the Bronx Zoo. Within a few years, the program and others like it were successfully establishing bison back into its native habitat. Bison now live in all 50 states in public and private herds, providing recreation opportunities for wildlife viewers in zoos, refuges and parks, and sustaining the multimillion dollar bison ranching and production business.
Fermilab’s first director, Robert Wilson, established the lab’s 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. The herd remains a major attraction for families and wildlife enthusiasts.
Fermilab’s ecologist Ryan Campbell recently confirmed that the laboratory’s herd is 100 percent bison, with no cattle genes. Farmers during the early settlement era would breed bison with other bovine species to keep them from extinction but Fermilab’s bison are purebred. The herd now numbers 18, with 14 additional calves expected by June.
All are welcome to visit the laboratory to see and photograph the new baby bison. Admission is free but a valid photo ID is required. The site is open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visitors can also learn more about the lab’s ecological efforts by hiking the Interpretive Prairie Trail, a half-mile-long trail located near the Pine Street entrance in Batavia. The Lederman Science Center offers exhibits on the prairie and hands-on physics displays. The Lederman Center hours are Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.