White bison at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

Mother Nature just gave us all the perfect excuse to visit the Ozarks.

In early 2021, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park in Missouri's Ozark Mountains welcomed a rare white baby American bison to its herd. According to the park, which is owned and operated by Dogwood Canyon Foundation, the baby was named Takoda, a Sioux word meaning "friend to everyone." Park officials are hoping the new addition will help to provide more educational opportunities for guests.

White bison at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

"Welcoming a remarkable white bison like this to Dogwood Canyon Nature Park allows us to expand on the important message that Native Americans live out an unwavering conservation ethic," said Bob Ziehmer, senior director of conservation for Bass Pro Shops, which helps operate the park through its own non-profit, shared in a statement. "Their wisdom and understanding about the vital balance between land and people inspires our core conservation principles, even today."

The park additionally noted, traditional Native American teaching spanning thousands of years dictates that the white bison is a sacred animal. According to the teachings, the birth of a white bison promotes "prayerful communication between Indigenous people and the Great Spirit, and was also a sign of peace and good fortune."

Though still rare today, the birth of white bison is a bit more common due to crossbreeding with cattle by ranchers as a way to save the entire species from extinction. Two centuries ago, more than 30 million American bison roamed the plains, however, their numbers plummeted to fewer than 2,000 by the 19th century. Thankfully, with the help of conservationists, there are now about 350,000 bison living in the United States, including this new little guy at Dogwood.

Visitors to Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, located just 15 minutes west of Branson, Missouri, can see Takoda and the rest of the bison herd by taking part in a Wildlife Tram Tour ($25 for adults, $15 for children). The two-hour guided ride takes passengers through the canyon and into the ridgetops to see the herds of bison, elk, and deer along the way.

White bison at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

Beyond the tram tour, travelers can also experience the park's expansive walking and biking paths, horseback riding excursions, and even take to fly fishing for rainbow trout. There are also a number of free educational activities guests to the park can partake in as well.

For more on the park, to schedule a tram tour, and to read more about the new baby bison, visit the park's website.

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