Abandoned for dead, the ranch is raising a baby bison that was separated from its mother

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

They weren’t sure if it would work. Finally, baby bison do not adapt well to bottle feeding.

But Emmie Sperandeo, a ranch hand working in Ronan, Montana, this summer thought she’d give it a try.

In a routine job of transferring native American buffalo from one herd to another in June, a small “red bitch” was separated from her mother. At the age of 2 weeks, the baby was expected not to live.

When the Sperandeo boss asked her to try to keep it alive, she wasn’t optimistic.

“Baby bison are very stubborn and sensitive,” Sperandeo told Cowboy State Daily. “I started her with a goat bottle because the nipple is smaller.”

Everyone loves Lucy

To everyone’s surprise, the baby survived – and became a daily part of Sperandeo’s ranch life.

And several million people all over the world, not only in the mountain west, have fallen in love with little Lucy, the orphaned bison.

TikTok fame

Sperandeo, a 26-year-old photographer/videographer/farm worker from Montana, has received millions of views on her TikTok video of Lucy, which gives viewers a glimpse of her unusual life with the baby bison.

But she gets even more reactions when she shows up at events with Lucy in tow.

In August, Sperandeo was in Jackson for a video shoot (she had to obtain a special bison transport permit to cross state lines). When she opened the back of her horse trailer and Lucy walked behind her on a halter and leash, they drew attention.

“Most people thought it was crazy,” Sperandeo said. “You’re like, why? What do you do when she’s bigger? What’s your plan here? What’s happening? And I mean, most of them are pretty intrigued.”

That bison girl

But Sperandeo said she really had no choice – she was the only one who could bottle-feed the bison and Lucy had gotten used to her. So this summer Sperandeo halter-broken Lucy and the two traveled everywhere together.

“I was really surprised how quickly people started calling me the ‘Bison Girl,'” Sperandeo said. “I had them for a couple of weeks and people would see me on the street and be like, ‘Hey, how’s your buffalo?'”

Sperandeo said that this winter she will be taking Lucy from Ronan to Townsend, Montana, where she will spend the next few months.

“She’s really comfortable with me,” she said. “She’s used to being around the horses.”

Photo courtesy of Emmie Sperandeo

Lucy is getting bigger

Sperandeao said that when Lucy grows and she keeps the bison long-term, she will take him to a separate pasture and get him a mate.

She also has the option of keeping Lucy at the Ronan ranch if that doesn’t work out.

return to the herd

Sperandeo said Lucy has adapted well to life with her human “mother” and other bison. In fact, this fall, Lucy began going out alone into the ranch’s bison herd.

Sperandeo attributes this independence to Lucy’s bison nature.

“She said, ‘Well, there’s a fence and I want something on the other side of it, so I’m going to get through there,'” she said. “So she would go out alone. And then I thought, ‘Well, I’m not going to force you. But come back when you’re hungry.’”

what she did

But Sperandeo said she encourages Lucy to interact with other people besides herself.

“She’s very attached to me and very comfortable with me, but she still doesn’t really trust other people,” Sperandeo said. “But I always want to try to say, ‘Okay, the strangers who come your way won’t hurt you.'”

Who wants to ride?

Because Lucy was born into a domestic herd, she is considered a farm animal and is not subject to the social distancing rules that apply in places like Yellowstone National Park.

So Sperandeo has big plans for Lucy when she gets older.

For example, to ride them.

“I want to get a little mini saddle and get them used to wearing a saddle,” she said. “And just do little things I can while she’s little so it’ll be easier when she’s bigger.”

Sperandeo has teased Lucy with such experiments so far.

“There’s not really a guidebook,” she said of her relationship with Lucy. “There’s really no information at all on bottle-feeding bison because there aren’t many that are alive. So it was all a very interesting trial and error experience.”

Traveling with Lucy

Sperandeo has to comply with state regulations on livestock and pets, but Lucy isn’t considered an “exotic animal,” so crossing state lines with her wasn’t too much of a problem — not yet. But she needs to do more research.

“I travel a lot with my horses,” said Sperandeo, who has been hired for photography and videography jobs in the United States, Canada and Mexico and even traveled to Africa last spring.

“But since (regulations) vary by state, I wasn’t very happy with the idea of ​​taking them everywhere I go,” she said.

Sperandeo just wants to make sure she’s never caught unprepared.

“You get vaccinated and then get a bison transport permit as you cross state lines,” she said, “so basically if you get pulled over and you’re like, ‘Why do you have bison in there?’ ”

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