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Published June 03, 2008, 12:00 AM

Third albino bison newest herd addition

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Talk about an embarrassment of riches. National Buffalo Museum officials here thought having a second white buffalo was beating the odds late last summer when White Cloud gave birth to Dakota Miracle.

By: By Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Talk about an embarrassment of riches.

National Buffalo Museum officials here thought having a second white buffalo was beating the odds late last summer when White Cloud gave birth to Dakota Miracle.

Now suddenly they’re faced with a third white buffalo, sex unknown, born sometime Saturday.

“To say we’re all surprised would be an understatement,” said Nina Sneider, director of Buffalo City Tourism.

Still recovering from the shock of what looks like another albino buffalo – this time born to a brown female in the herd – Felicia Sargeant, museum director, said she has no idea what they’ll do about naming or promoting the new calf. This calf also has pink eyes and Sargeant said she feels pretty certain it’s an albino.

“I guess I don’t know where to go from here,” she said. “When we got the phone call Saturday, all I could say was, ‘What?’ I still don’t know what you can assume or say about this.”

The first order of business was removing a sign at Frontier Village touting Dakota Miracle as one in a billion. Now, no one quite knows what having three in such a small herd means genetically.

“Obviously, we’ve got some luck going for us,” said Dean Anderson, president of the museum board. “At least now people will have a better chance of seeing a white buffalo.”

Dakota Thunder, one of three bulls in the herd, is the father, Sargeant said. He carries the albino gene.

There are no solid statistics on the odds of having one albino, let alone three. Sargeant said in the 1700s there were an estimated 60 million bison on the prairie. By the late 1800s there were only about 800.

“Any record of white buffalo was lost by then,” she said.

Then, in the 1920s, Big Medicine, a partial albino, was born.

“He died in 1959. From there until White Cloud was born, there’s no record of an albino,” Sargeant said. White Cloud was born in 1996. “We don’t know how rare or how common they might have been when there were millions.”

Despite the shock and indecision on what should happen next, Sneider said it’s good news.

“We’ll work on promoting it across the nation and internationally,” she said.

Anderson and Sargeant are also pleased, but are just a little wary. After all, it’s only the beginning of calving season.

Dakota Miracle came through the winter as a healthy, growing young buffalo. He’s nearly as tall as his mother and retains all the characteristics of an albino, Sargeant said.

“He’s going to be a big, beautiful bull,” she said. And when he’s full grown, she figures he’ll add to the albino gene pool in the herd.

Meanwhile, billboards with White Cloud and Dakota Miracle are still up. It’s too late to change the advertising for the summer season.

“We’re past the point that we can redo or recreate them, so now it will be word of mouth, radio and television,” Sneider said. “All you can say is, ‘Who would ever have thought this could happen?’ But he (it) sure is a cute little thing.”


Pirkl works for the Jamestown (N.D.) Sun, a Forum Communications Co. newspaper

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