We're beginning a new feature on The Doings called "Brookfield Zoo animal spotlight." Each time, we will feature one Brookfield Zoo animal and give you some background information about the animal, its species, its family and its connection to the zoo!
Animal name: Hope
Species: American bison
Birth date: May 16, 2012
How long animal has been at the zoo: Hope was born at Brookfield Zoo
Q: Give us a bit of background on Hope’s species.
A: While any birth at Brookfield Zoo is exciting, the birth of a bison like Hope is a big deal — quite literally! Baby bison arrive weighing up to 50 pounds. Like many hoofed animals, young bison walk or run within just a few hours after birth. In the wild, this is so vulnerable youngsters can escape potential predators. But imagine a predator that would want to mess with a 50-pounder, even if it’s a baby! Bison reach maturity at around seven or eight years old, so Hope has a ways to go. At this time, Hope is already over 800 pounds, nearly the size of her mother. You can tell Hope by her still comparatively small horns.
Q: Does Hope have any other family at the zoo?
A: Hope’s mom, 5-year-old Leotie, and dad, 14-year-old Ron, both live at Brookfield Zoo.
Q: What are Hope’s interactions with people on a daily basis?
A: Hope’s keepers take great care of her and the other bison. They sometimes feed her grass, hay, and carrots by hand. She has come to know her keepers and likes these treats.
Q: Why is it important to learn more about bison?
A: It was said that, hundreds of years ago, bison numbered in the tens of millions on the North American plains. (That guy who had to count them must have had a boring job!) Unfortunately, they were over hunted and their numbers dwindled to just around 1,000 by the early 20th century. But conservationists and landowners stepped in to save them, and there are lots of them now. In fact, their happy saga is why they are the symbol of the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. It’s important to learn about them because they are proof that animal species can be saved.
Q: Anything else that you want to say about this animal?
A: What isn’t there to say? They smell and hear great but, because they can’t see well, they stay in herds for safety. During winter, they sweep their muzzle from side to side through deep snow to reach buried grass. They have specialized bones in their head to prevent damage from head butting. They can leap over fences. They are born with all their teeth. We think Hope would agree that bison are truly fascinating animals!
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