Bison Survives Direct Lightning Strike, Earns Name ‘Sparky’

Sparky the lightning surviving bison was struck in 2013 at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. He was spotted by a wildlife biologist doing routine health checks on the herd.

According to the USFWS, “During a survey in late July 2013, she noticed a bull standing by himself. When she took a closer look through her binoculars, she noticed that Sparky looked bloody. This wasn’t entirely surprising because bison bulls will often fight during the mating season and July tends to be a prime time for injuries. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that Sparky had been burned over a large area. His hump was missing hair and there was a large lump on his hind leg, which must have been the exit wound, meaning Sparky was laying down at the time of the strike.”

Karen Viste-Sparkman, USFWS
Karen Viste-Sparkman, USFWS

The good news is that Sparky survived the strike, and luckily at his home at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge he has no natural enemies. Since the strike he’s thrived, and at 11-years old weighs close to 1,600-pounds. Pre-strike Sparky fathered three calves. So, what’s the future for Sparky other than grazing and dodging storm clouds?

“Genetic testing will tell us if he successfully reproduced after the strike,” Courtney Celley, USFWS public affairs specialist, posted in the press release. “But we’re hoping that he does because he’s one tough bison!” She continued, “If you ever find yourself near Des Moines, stop by Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and see if you can spot Sparky. He tends to spend his time just like other bulls – hanging out in small groups or enjoying some quiet time alone.”

For more information on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and what we stand for, click the video below. They’re conserving the nature of America through their conservation principles: Service, Science, Partnerships, Stewardship, People, Professionalism and Legacy.


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