white bison
The photographer said the rare white bison was born on June 4, 2024, in Yellowstone National Park. Credit: Erin Braaten/Facebook

Pretty Rare White Bison Spotted by Wildlife Photog

True white bison, or albino bison, are incredibly rare. Like one in 10 million rare. So whenever one is spotted, it gets national attention.

Montana-based wildlife photographer Erin Braaten shared images this week of something incredibly rare. In her Facebook post on Wednesday, she said: "Oh my gosh!! We're in Yellowstone this week and just missed this birth by a few minutes! A white bison calf!!"

Braaten's gallery contains seven images of the newborn and the mother, who clearly had just given birth. She told the Cowboy State Daily that the afterbirth and the placenta were all in view when she spotted it on Tuesday. She told the newspaper that at first, she thought the white bison was a coyote, but then realized what it was. "We were totally surprised," she said.

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How rare is a white bison

According to reports, white bison, or albino bison, are rare. They're so rare, in fact, that when one is photographed, it tends to gain national attention. But exactly how rare is up for debate.

Last year, a white bison calf was born at Bear River State Park near Evanston, Wyoming. While some misreported it as albino, it turned out to have a mix of bison and Charolais cattle DNA. The latter is a white breed of cattle. Additionally, some wild bison have Charolais DNA. Wildlife managers used them to help repopulate the species after they were nearly hunted to extinction in the 1800s.

The National Bison Association explained that multiple outlets falsely attributed the figure "one in 10 million" chance of a white bison existing. "The truth is we simply don't know the occurrence of a white bison because, to my knowledge, no one has ever kept track," the organization said.

Whether or not this week's calf was an albino is still up in the air as the National Park Service has not yet confirmed its existence. And they might not get a chance. According to the Park Service, only about half of the bison calves born each year live beyond the age of three.