It’s arguable that any baby animal is cute, even the furry, wobbly-legged offspring of giant, horned herbivores, the bison. And if you hit Yellowstone National Park this year, it’s likely you saw a few more of those little hairballs since about 700 were born this year.
The recently released annual bison survey reports that the lumbering ungulate’s population is up 9 percent from last year. Aerial surveys estimate that there are 4,600 bison divided between Yellowstone’s two large herds. The northern herd has roughly 3,200 animals, while the smaller central herd has about 1,400.
The population increase is within the normal range, researchers say. In 2005, the population grew to 5,000 animals, the highest recorded number.
Researchers monitor the bison population in order to make better decisions under the Interagency Bison Management Plan, a cooperative agreement designed to keep bison populations in check, thereby decreasing the risk of a brucellosis outbreak. Brucellosis is an infectious disease transmitted between bison and cattle that can cause miscarriages livestock. An outbreak can be “financially devastating” for ranchers, reports yellowstonegate.com, since it requires “widespread livestock quarantine and euthanasia.”