NewsMontana and Regional News


White bison calf has not been seen in Yellowstone National Park since birth

White bison are extremely rare with just 1 in 10 million in existence.
White bison calf at Yellowstone National Park
Posted at 11:40 AM, Jun 30, 2024

A white bison calf, born in Yellowstone National Park at the start of June, has not been seen since, according to park officials.

There haven’t been any confirmed sightings of the calf since June 4, when several visitors first took photographs of the newborn in the Lamar Valley area of the park.

Park staff said they hadn’t been able to locate the calf, and it’s unclear if the calf is still alive.

White bison — especially ones that aren’t a result of albinism — are extremely rare, and it is said that just 1 in 10 million exist.

Many Native American tribes consider white buffalo to be sacred.

Tribal leaders recently conducted a special ceremony near the park to honor the white calf, believing it has fulfilled a tribal prophecy.

The prophecy means people need to take better care of Mother Earth and must come together to do so, Native American leaders said during the sacred ceremony near Hebgen Lake in Montana.

They named the calf Wakan Gli, which means “Return Sacred” in Lakota.

Representatives from the Shoshone-Bannock, Lakota, Sioux, Northern Arapaho and Colville tribes were present at the ceremony.

From the National Park Service:

  • At this time, Yellowstone National Park can confirm, based on multiple creditable sightings, that a white bison calf was born in Lamar Valley on June 4, 2024.  
  • Yellowstone’s Center for Resources Bison Management Team received numerous reports and photos of the calf taken on June 4 from park visitors, professional wildlife watchers, commercial guides and researchers. 
  • To date, park staff have been unable to locate the calf. 
  • To our knowledge, there have been no confirmed sightings by park visitors since June 4. 
  • Photos provided to park biologists indicate the calf is leucistic (black eyes and hooves with some pigmentation), rather than an albino animal. 


  • The birth of a white bison calf was a rare natural phenomenon that once occurred before the near extinction of bison in the late 19th century, when bison numbered in the tens of millions. 
  • The birth of a white bison calf may reflect the presence of a natural genetic legacy that was preserved in Yellowstone’s bison, which has revealed itself because of the successful recovery of a wild bison population of 3,000-6,000 animals. 
  • The birth of a white bison calf in the wild is a landmark event in the ecocultural recovery of bison by the National Park Service (NPS).  
  • The NPS has never reported a white calf being born within Yellowstone National Park. 
  • The birth of a white bison calf in the wild is believed to occur in 1 in 1 million births or even less frequently. 
  • The NPS acknowledges the cultural significance of a white bison calf for American Indians.   

Bison Population

  • The bison population fluctuates from 3,000 to 6,000 animals in two subpopulations, defined by where they gather for breeding. The northern herd breeds in the Lamar Valley and on the high plateaus around it. The central herd breeds in Hayden Valley. 
  • The NPS estimates the 2024 pre-calving bison population around 4,550. Calving occurs in a single pulse during late spring and early summer.  
  • The NPS will complete annual post-calving counts this August. 
  • Each spring, about 1 in 5 bison calves die shortly after birth due to natural hazards.