By five days old, the bison calf had a name – Achelous after the mythical Greek bull that Hercules fought in one of his seven labors. But just because he is named, does not mean he is any easier to care for. If you watched the videos from last week, you can see that for the first few days, the calf simply abhorred his caretakers. When approached, he would rush at whoever had the bottle, head lowered in the most aggressive way. The only way to feed him initially was to straddle him, and for the first few days it took two strong people to hold the four day old. By the end of the feeding session the milk would be plastered around his head and jaw and all over us. But soon, he realized that the bottle was his friend.
But in the third week, he began to look sluggish and his feistyness was gone. You can see him a little too docile in this video. Achelous did not get his mother’s antibodies in his milk so he was vulnerable to infection. He started out getting the Scours, an intestinal infection that gave him diarrhea which left him weak and at risk of dehydration. The vet was called out twice to administer medications and we started supplementing Achelous milk with electrolytes. Soon he was beginning to look himself again, but not before another infection.
He then got pink eye, a serious infection for bison that can leave them blind. It was important to protect him from flies so we started spraying his body and his eyes with two different kinds of natural repellents to keep the flies away. Eventually we needed to glue a patch over one eye to keep the flies away as it healed.
We will see next week if it did the trick.
Achelous will never be able to return to our herd. Whiterock’s herd is wild, and not used to human at all. They stay in our pasture because they want to be there. They have food, mates and no reason to leave. For the most part, they walk away from people or just ignore us. But Achelous, having been raised by people, will want to be with people. This could lead to one of two outcomes, neither or which will be good. Either, he is going to approach people and the rest of the herd will get concerned for his safety and rush people or, when he reaches 2,000 pounds he will push through the fences, let all the other bison out, and frighten Whiterock visitors. Yet, not many people can handle, or want, a 2000 pound bison “pet”. Finding him a home is going to be difficult.
Stay tuned to learn about his next adventure.