Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is now home to two female yearling American bison. The bison will soon join the wildlife park’s 12 other bison in the 435-acre Free-Roaming Area.
“We expect them to fit right in with the herd,” said Marc Heinzman, the wildlife park’s curator. “They are at an age where they are usually more curious but less confident than an adult might be.”
Before they join the others, the duo – named Cloudy and Frosty by keepers – are acclimating to their Northwest home behind the scenes. They recently received wellness exams from the park’s two veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and the team of keepers.
“They received vaccine boosters, dewormer and other supplements,” explained head veterinarian Dr. Allison Case. “This was a wonderful opportunity to do an up-close physical exam to get to know these bison even better.”
Dr. Case said the bison appear healthy and have room to grow. They currently weigh an estimated 800 pounds, and American female bison can weigh up to 1,800 pounds.
The Free-Roaming Area will give them plenty of space to move about and explore. Bison are grazers and primarily feed on grasses and leaves. They are North America’s largest land mammal, with a tufted tail and long brown hair that’s thicker in winter.
Bison are a near-threatened species. They once roamed America’s Great Plains by the millions, but they were coveted for their meat and pelts, and their numbers dwindled to only about 1,000 scattered across the country by the early 1900s. Careful conservation planning by committed groups, including the American Bison Society, was used to regrow herds.
Northwest Trek’s bison herd traces its roots to the fall of 1971. At that time, six animals from the National Bison Range in Montana were contributed by federal authorities to the new wildlife park, Northwest Trek co-founder David T. “Doc” Hellyer wrote in his memoir, “At the Forest’s Edge.” When the wildlife park opened its gates to visitors on July 17, 1975, the bison herd was well established.
Once the bison move to the Free-Roaming Area, guests can see them by booking a Wild Drive or Keeper Adventure Tour. Both tours bring you up close to bison, moose, mountain goats, Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, caribou, and a trumpeter swan.