GREAT SALT LAKE -- It’s been a rough year for animals on Antelope Island, and though the Department of Natural Resources usually lets nature take its course, they say this year they had to get involved.
After major habitat loss from last summer’s wildfire and then a long winter, the DNR has had to bring hay onto the island to feed the animals.
And now that the island has 200 new bison calves, they are feeling confident the herd is in good health. They won’t know for sure, though, until the annual Bison Roundup in October where the animals will be checked one by one.
“One of the things we're really interested in seeing is the weight of the babies, and the moms too," said Charity Owens, Park Ranger Naturalist with the Division of Natural Resources. "Are they coming in at lower weights than they did the previous years when they didn't have the such a huge habitat and food loss?"
The park expects around 400,000 visitors each year.
Many come during the spring to see the new arrivals, but rangers say those mamma bison are extra protective, so make sure to give them some space.
“They don’t want people to get close to the babies, the babies are actually pretty cute to catch from a distance from your vehicles," Owens said." The moms... as long as you stay in your vehicles, that doesn’t seem to be a threat to them. So, take all the pictures you want, sometimes they’ll cross the road right in front of you and the babies are cute because they’re pretty curious, because they haven’t seen cars very much."
If you are outside your car and wondering if you are too close to a bison, rangers say the bison will first look at you, then if it's mad it will stick its tail straight up. After that, it may be too late. The 2,000-pound animals can run 40 miles an hour.
In addition, Owens said visitors should be prepared for bugs. The gnat population on the island will start subsiding in June.