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Bison are settling in at Battelle Darby Park
Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
The bison are settling in nicely at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.
The Wilds, a wildlife conservation center in southeast Ohio, delivered six female bison to Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park on Feb. 4. According to naturalist Tim Taylor, the small herd is settling in nicely.
“Within five minutes of coming off the trailers, they were in a group and grazing,” Taylor said.
The oldest bison, an 8-year-old, quickly emerged as the herd leader, learning the boundaries of the pasture. Each of the other five bison are 2 to 3 years old. In the wild, bison live to be about 15 years old. In domestic situations, they can live to be 35.
People of all ages are flocking to see the critters.
“Last weekend, we had at least a couple thousand people out to see the bison. That’s a lot more visitors than we would normally have this time of year,” Taylor said.
To see the bison, visitors can park in the first lot inside the main entrance (the Cedar Ridge area) at 1775 Darby Creek Drive, Galloway, then look for signs for the Greenway Trail. The trail leads visitors on about a 0.75-mile walk out to the two enclosed bison pastures.
A double fence surrounds each of the pastures. A woven wire and electrified fence keeps the bison enclosed; an outer wooden fence serves as a barrier for the public. When the bison are near the fences, visitors can get as close as 30 feet away from the animals. The paddocks are 19 acres and 33 acres in size, though, so chances are the bison will be further away.
“We plan to have an observation tower built within the next year to make viewing the bison easier,” Taylor said.
As for the best time of day to see the bison, Taylor said park workers haven’t yet observed a particular pattern in the herd’s daily movements. He did say they are more active in the morning and evening when they are grazing. They generally spend the middle of the day ruminating (chewing their cud) and napping.
Currently, the herd is in the smaller of the two pastures, which is planted primarily with pasture grass. The park system plans to move the bison to the larger pasture, featuring native prairie grasses, in the spring.
“At the Wilds, they were living on land that was reclaimed strip mines. When they get into the tall prairie grasses here, it’s going to be like they’re looking at a great big ice cream sundae,” Taylor said.
To learn more about the bison, visitors are encouraged to take part in upcoming programs, including guided hikes at 1 p.m. on March 13 and April 23. The April hike is geared toward visitors who are 50 and older. All three hikes start at the naturalist’s office inside the main entrance.
The Battelle Darby staff also plans to man a bison information table along the Greenway Trail, weather permitting, from 1 to 4 p.m. March 6, noon to 3 p.m. March 19, and 1 to 4 p.m. March 20.
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. until April 1, when closing time extends to 10 p.m.
For more information about the park or the bison, go to www.metroparks.net.
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