Springtime means the coming of new life for most animals. From the moment of birth, life for animals in Wind Cave National Park is a constant fight for survival. Fortunately, animals are born with certain protective mechanisms.
This May 50 to 60 bison calves will be born to Wind Cave's herd of about 350 bison. Most cows give birth to one calf each year. Two or three days after the birth the seventy pound, red-coated youngsters will roam with the herd. As bison are gregarious creatures, group protection of calves creates a safe environment. A bison is fully mature at two years.
Desert cottontails are found throughout the western states. This popular animal is known for its short bushy white tail and large ears. The female rabbit will produce 3 to 5 litters a year and in each litter she may have up to 8 bunnies. At 2 weeks, the gray-furred bunnies will venture from the protective burrows to feed on grasses. When the cottontail senses danger it thumps its hind feet and other nearby rabbits scatter in different directions, possibly confusing the enemy.
A common bird to the park and to much of the world is the graceful barn swallow. Twice a year these small, colorful birds come together in courtship. Their nests are made of mud and lined with grass or feathers and are built on any building offering overhead protection. The nest houses 3 to 6 eggs. Sixteen days after the eggs are hatched, chicks are able to fly from their homes. Community adult protection of the chicks is common. Sometimes the chicks are protected by adults from up to 40 nearby nests.
Did You Know?
Fire is an important factor in protecting the prairie. Historically, fires burned across the prairie every 4 to 7 years. Fires burn the small trees that would otherwise march across the prairie and turn the grasslands to forest.