Pittsburg Two new bison cows have joined a southeast Kansas herd, and if wildlife officials are correct, both could be mothers in a few months.
The cows were added to Bison Wildlife Area north of Frontenac on Monday. It was the second time cows have been added in recent years to bolster the population, now at six animals.
"We did a pregnancy test, but they are several months away from calving, so you can't tell by just looking at them," said Rob Riggin, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks public land manager. "You have to actually do the test on them. That's not going to be a sure bet either. They can abort on a trip like this or have some sort of problem. This will give us a much better chance."
The new cows are each 4 years old and came from the Sandsage Bison Ranch near Garden City.
"It just means it's going to increase the vigor of our herd," Riggin said. "We're replacing some older cows that are in their upper 20s with some younger cows probably closer to their prime."
Rep. Bob Grant, a Cherokee Democrat who has long advocated funding and support for the wildlife area, watched as the cows joined the herd. He praised Wildlife and Parks Secretary Mike Hayden, a former governor, for keeping his word to sustain the park.
"I'm just glad to see this display going," Grant said.
There is one potential challenge, however. If one of the calves were to be a bull, wildlife officials may consider moving it from the small park, which covers just 23 acres.
"We need to decide if we want to keep a bull calf in the pen with the cows," Riggin said. "For a display like this, the bulls have a little more attitude than the cows, especially during breeding season. They could pose more of a threat to the viewing public."
Facilities are limited, Riggin said, which makes it difficult to get cows out.
"It has been done in the past, but there's a whole lot of luck involved, believe me," he said. "You don't decide what they are going to do, you have to suggest it to them and hope that's their decision. If they want to stay in that pen for a while, then that's great, but if they don't, then you just let them leave."
Grant said people in the area enjoy the attraction. He said the park could be expanded and the fence replaced if funding became available.
"When I drive by here, I always check, and I see a lot of people bring their kids out here," Grant said. "Hopefully we can keep this thing going. One of these days, we may have to ask the people in Crawford County and the people in southeast Kansas to maybe chip in a little money, and I've already had offers for that."