Meet Sparky the Bison: Lightning-Strike Survivor


bison with wound on hump

This is Sparky, one tough bison at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. In summer 2013, Sparky was struck by lightning on his shoulder hump.

While doing a survey of bison on the refuge in late July 2013, Wildlife Biologist Karen Viste-Sparkman noticed a bull standing by himself. On closer inspection, it was clear that he had been struck by lightning and burned over a large area of his body. “Sparky” was thin after the strike and wasn't expected to live long. Since a lightning strike is something that could happen to wild bison anywhere, the refuge let nature take its course. But two years later, Sparky is going strong!

Sparky is just one of the bison that call Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge home. The refuge was established to protect, restore, reconstruct and manage the diverse native ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna and sedge meadow. As part of that mission, Neal Smith has a small herd of bison.

Learn more about Sparky’s amazing story of survival.

Photo by Karen Viste-Sparkman, USFWS.