Fermilab History and Archives Project

Natural History - Wildlife


By mid September, six buffalo will be roaming on the west side of Eola Road - a strange sight for the "city slicker" or even for the "country folk" in this area.

Two mothers (they're called cows, I'm told), two daughters of the mothers (yearling heifers), one baby boy (bull calf), an undetermined child (one of the mothers is "in a delicate condition"!) and one father husband (referred to as a buffalo bull - not to be mistaken for Buffalo Bill!) will be attracting attention from everyone passing by.

It is expected that this new NAL family will be shipped from Longmount, Colorado, all in September and will be setting up housekeeping in a fenced-in area near the Laboratory Village. The head of the household recently starred in a Frontier Day Parade at Cheyenne, Wyoming, where more than 200,000 people watched him behave like the gentleman he is!

Some of the families had been residents of the site area for scores of years. Others were relative newcomers. To honor the former residents of the site and also to provide a historical context, NAL is establishing a museum on the site. It will be located on the former Leon Feldott farm on Batavia Road.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 1 No. 4, September, 1969

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(The following article was written by Dave Carey, of Experimental Facilities, who, with his wife, Janet, spend much of their leisure time "bird-watching" on the NAL site.)

Black Crowned Night Heron
Black Crowned Night Heron

Just to the east of the Village lies an area where, in the course of a year, one can observe many species of both water and song birds. This area starts with a row of trees on the north, and includes an evaporation pond and large swampy region. It then follows a stream which crosses Batavia Road near the Lab entrance, and includes several more ponds south of the road.

In the Spring the ponds are a stopping point during migration for several kinds of waterfowl. Each species will arrive at a certain time, be seen for several days, and then disappear until Fall. Several days later, another species will arrive and do the same. This past Spring we hosted Canada Geese, Mallards, Gadwalls, Shovelers, Blue-Winged Teal, Ring-Necked Ducks, lesser scaup and common Goldeneye. The Wood Duck nests in trees and stays here all summer. After them the most eye-catching are perhaps the Goldeneye, with a large white circular spot on the side of the head.

Herons can be seen all summer in the swampy area and the ponds south of Batavia Road. If one ventures near the swamp north of Batavia Road the chances of flushing out a green heron are excellent. It is the smallest heron on site, about 14" high. One can identify it by its russet neck, spotted on the front, and its bright yellow legs which it holds behind as it flies away. Blackcrowned night herons are larger and often fly out of the area at dusk to feed. The most spectacular are the great blue herons which are very slender and reach a height of four feet. All three herons are found in the pond near the Lab entrance within sight of Batavia Road. However, it is advisable to stay in your car lest they all fly away.

Dave Carey patiently watches for birds
Dave Carey patiently watches for birds

Photo by Tim Fielding, NAL

Sandpipers are abundant in the swampy area. Here one can find solitary, spotted, pectoral, and semi-palmated sand pipers and lesser yellow legs. A closely-related bird seen throughout the Village is the Killdeer. It has a white head and brownish back and may be identified by the two black bands around its neck and a thin white stripe running the length of the wing, visible during flight. They are famous for their broken wing act when their nests are endangered.

If one is fortunate, one can find other water birds, such as king-fishers, sora, cools, and gallinules. Gallinules nest in the area. They are shaped somewhat like a chicken and have black backs with bright red beaks and a voice which sounds like a bicycle horn. For several weeks in the spring, black terns are seen skimming over the surface of the evaporation pond. Songbirds are abundant in the trees and underbrush at the edge of the swamp and ponds. Late in the summer the cedar waxwing with its crest and exotic coloration is in great profusion. Kingbirds are often seen chasing other birds many times their size. They are dark birds, with white throats and breasts, a small crest and a white bank at the tip of the tail. Several species of swallow are found perching on wires near the area and flying above the water searching for insects. Also seen are many others including cardinals, goldfinches, and bobolink.

To date, 57 species have been counted in the small area in less than a year of observing. The future will, no doubt, reveal new species and add further interest for birdwatchers.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 2 No. 40, October, 1970

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NEW ARRIVALS: Izaak Walton League provides 10 "Canadensis Maxima" for NAL site. Here (l. to r.), Bob Hines, NAL Farm Manager; Arthur Leverenze, of Elgin; John Barry, NAL Director's Office, and State Rep. R. Bruce Waddell, of Dundee, uncrating geese to be placed at the fire pond near the Curia.
NEW ARRIVALS: Izaak Walton League provides 10
"Canadensis Maxima" for NAL site. Here (l. to r.), Bob Hines,
NAL Farm Manager; Arthur Leverenze, of Elgin; John Barry,
NAL Director's Office, and State Rep. R. Bruce Waddell, of
Dundee, uncrating geese to be placed at the fire pond near the Curia.

Photo by Tony Frelo, NAL

Early last Fall, John Barry and Rudy Dorner stood outside the Curia and watched a flock of geese fly south over NAL's 6,800-acre site. The annual exodus prompted them to speculate on the prospects of providing facilities and a habitat at NAL for geese to "winter over and hopefully to breed."

Several weeks later, Barry was in communication with a former colleague at the University of Michigan, Prof. Donald I. Meyer. The Ann Arbor physicist asked Barry's assistance in acquiring wild ducks to breed at NAL as a symbol of the academic community's support of the dedication of Robert R. Wilson, NAL's Director, in pursuing strict conservationist philosophies in developing the Laboratory.

"I suggested that perhaps a more significant gesture would be the presentation to NAL of Canadian Geese to be used for breeding, and we agreed that this would be a worthwhile effort," recalls Barry, of the Director's Office staff. Then, Barry began a lengthy, sometimes frustrating attempt to locate Canadian Geese, ready, willing and able to make NAL their home - temporarily, at least, if not permanently. Dorner, NAL's Site Manager who came to the Laboratory from Illinois Department of Conservation, helped in the search for new wild game.

It was thought that NAL provided a unique and appropriate environment for declining species of certain game. The presence of the Canadian geese, it was thought, would encourage flocks of other birds to "stop-over" as they migrated from the North to the South on their middle-west flyway.

Eventually, Barry was referred to State Rep. Bruce Waddell,who represents the 33rd District in Illinois' General Assembly. Waddell has been active for years in Izaak Walton League and is a member of Illinois' Giant Canada Goose Committee.

On December 30, Waddell brought to NAL 10 Giant Canada geese, which were accepted by Robert Hines, Farm Manager, and Barry, on behalf of NAL as a "loan" from the Izaak Walton League. Explained Waddell: "The Committee's aim is to provide breeding birds to co-operators who, in turn, agree to protect and to nurture the birds. Ultimately, we hope the plan is successful enough so that we can place the offspring of the geese back into their natural flyways."

The species planted at NAL is the "Canadensis Maxima." It is native to this area, and it is rare, as it was thought that the Maximas became extinct about 50 years ago. However, in 1960, an Illinois Natural History Survey expert identified some in a winter flock near Rochester, Minn. Since then, flocks have been observed at nearby Woodstock, IL. The birds at NAL came from the McGraw Wildlife Foundation's preserve, near Dundee. The Maximas grow to a larger size (average about 20 lbs.) than other species, which average nine pounds.

Canadian Geese silhouetted under NAL bell tower
Canadian Geese silhouetted under NAL
bell tower

Photo by Tony Frelo, NAL

Five females and five males are in the NAL flock. The Canada goose averages 30 years in its life span. NAL's flock is now between two and four years of age. A large specimen of Maxima has a wingspread in excess of six feet.

The Giant Canada population in the U.S. and Canada has been estimated recently at about 50,000. Giant Canadas have personality quirks, too. They often fight for nesting sites. Sometimes the gander is goaded on by the female and a battle to death ensues. The geese copulate in water and are happiest in an "island" situation either created artificially or in a natual setting. This also has the advantage of protecting them from predators. They are vulnerable to dogs and foxes - even raccoons. After they have "paired off," the geese can be moved in pairs to new locations. The mating normally lasts a lifetime, unless the birds are placed in some abnormal circumstance.

At present, NAL's geese reside in the fire pond behind the Curia. Visitors are invited to view them, but are cautioned to keep a distance because of the birds' powerful wings. The flock may be moved to other sites at NAL after they have paired-up sometime this Spring. Geese have strong homing instincts and tend to return to the same area in which they were hatched to build their own nests. They migrate as far north as the Arctic Circle.

From the Arctic Circle to NAL, Canadian Goose inspects his new habitat
From the Arctic Circle to NAL, Canadian
Goose inspects his new habitat

Photo by Tony Frelo, NAL

Explained Rep. Waddell: "There is a continuing need to put back into nature something that was taken out by man. It is a great satisfaction to work with a bird this size and to get to know its family characteristics."

Barry and Hines said they hoped that the new NAL family members would attract other geese. Perhaps, they note, the Izaak Walton League soon will provide prairie chickens. The chickens would join the two herds of buffalo, Mallard ducks, deer and other animals and birds that will be "invited" to establish homes in the ex-urban environment of the world's largest scientific instrument for pure research.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 3 No. 3, January 21, 1971

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Photo by Fran Pisarek, NAL
Photo by Fran Pisarek, NAL

The buffalo herd at NAL is expanding. A State of Illinois Department of Conservation truck arrived at the Laboratory last week to deliver a buffalo cow and calf. At left, Rudy Dorner, NAL Site Manager, was on hand to greet the new arrivals, which bring the herd to 18. The adoptees may be seen on the former Kammes Farm. "Both are females," said Dorner, "and we are hoping for a population explosion in the buffalo community one of these months."

The new arrivals complete the planned acquisitions from the State of Illinois.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 3 No. 10, March 11, 1971

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A new member of the NAL family was born about noon Saturday, May 29, with some fanfare and considerable excitement. One tiny buffalo was added to the Laboratory's wildlife population. As a result, NAL now has 19 head of buffalo.

Robert Hines, NAL Farm Manager, reported that a fawn colored bull calf was "delivered" in the grazing area on the Feldott farm off Batavia road. The mother is "Short Horns," a six-year old, imported to the NAL site last year from Colorado.

The newcomer's weight is 50-60 pounds. So far, it is unnamed. And, it is reported that mother and baby are doing well.

It was the first calf born in the Colorado herd since it came to NAL. The new addition brings the herd in the Feldott grazing area on the south side of Batavia road to two heifers, two cows,two bulls and the new calf ... for a total of seven buffalo.

On the north side of the road is a herd obtained from the state of Illinois. It has 12 head -- three bulls (the oldest is 7 years old), 5 cows, 1 bull calf and three heifer calves. One bull calf and three heifer calves are from the four cows; the calves were born in 1970.

The birth provided a busy Memorial Day week-end for Rudy Dorner, NAL Site Manager, and Hines. As Mrs. Jo Gustafson reported in the Aurora Beacon-News:

Mom and son are doing well, thanks

Mom and son are doing well, thanks

Photo by Jim Engel, Aurora Beacon News

"It would have been quieter if the father had been clued in on what was going on. As it was, the excitement was too much for him and he stormed to a point where there was danger that the calf would be trampled to death. Extra 'delivery room' equipment meant fire trucks, hoses and squad cars to keep things orderly and cool the tempers."

"When the star of the show decided to appear the protective instinct of its mother caused pandemonium again. More trouble and more fire trucks and hoses. She was 'protecting' whether it was from men, fire hoses, squad cars or another buffalo."

There was one problem after another. Finally, the keepers managed to steer the new mother and the 30-inch-high buffalo back to the buffalo barn -- a makeshift maternity ward.

The baby buffalo thus joined 50 cows and 51 calves (one set of twins) and six horses (belonging to the NAL-associated Indian Creek Riding Club) on the 6,800-acre NAL site. The Aberdeen Angus cows belong to Larry Breon, a Batavia area farmer, who has been granted a license to graze the cattle on NAL pastures for two years.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 3 No. 23, June 10, 1971

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Felicia Ferret at the end of a successful run

Felicia Ferret at the end of a successful run

Photo by Tony Frelo, NAL

From the dictionary: A ferret is a domesticated, albinistic, red-eyed form of the polecat; employed in Europe for hunting of rabbits in burrows. Usually 21-23 inches long, five inches tall.

Felicia Ferret is playing an important and little-known role in construction of the Meson Laboratory at NAL. She is not on the NAL payroll nor on Social Security, but her activities are saving scores of manhours and getting a difficult job done quickly.

In the construction going on at the Meson Lab, there developed a need several weeks ago to swab out stray steel particles from the long lines that must be spotless for the elementary particles that will zoom through them in a few months. During the design process, Wally Pelczarski, designer in the NAL Main Ring Section, was given the job of designing a mechanical ferret that would be the "meson-cleaner".

In a conversation with Robert Sheldon, the innovative Briton who first suggested that discarded beverage cans be used in designing the geodesic dome near the Neutrino Lab Building, Pelczarski accepted Sheldon's suggestion that live, rather than mechanical, ferrets be used.

So, Pelczarski arranged for the Wild Game and Fur Farm in Gaylord, Minn., to send him the smallest ferret it had on hand. Back, via a special shipment, came Felicia, about 15 inches long, or about 15 per cent smaller than her male counterpart. Felicia cost $35, but has saved NAL hundreds and perhaps even thousands of dollars.

Fastening a string to Miss Ferret's special collar are (L to R) Don Richied and Wally Pelczarski
Fastening a string to Miss Ferret's special collar are (L to R) Don Richied and Wally Pelczarski
Richied and Pelczarski testing Felicia's special rigging
Richied and Pelczarski testing Felicia's special rigging

The tiny ferret was chosen because it is known as an observant, curious animal whose hunting instincts make it seek out holes and other items. It also has been used extensively for rat extermination. The first ferret was brought from Africa to Europe several hundred years ago. And the first ferret is reported to have reached the United States in 1875.

Felicia can go through rectangular tubes one and three-eighths of an inch by four and seven-eighths of an inch; holes that are only slightly larger than the size of her head. So far, Felicia has made three 300-foot runs through Meson vacuum pipes that are only 12 inches in diameter. She is scheduled to make nine more "house-cleaning" runs through the Meson vacuum lines in the next few months.

A specially-made collar placed around Felicia's neck carries a string or lightweight rope. The ferret then pulls the string through the pipe. To the end of this string, workmen fasten an appropriate swab which is then pulled through the pipe by the workmen. After that, the vacuum pipe is clean and free of unwanted scrap particles.

Felicia's diet is similar to that of a mink. Some of her food has been obtained from a mink farm in nearby suburban Winfield. Mainly, her diet consists of chicken, chicken livers, raw meat, fish heads, etc. She is also very fond of ordinary hamburger.

Says Don Richied, Meson Lab technician: "Felicia has saved me a lot of time and effort. We'll use her over and over again and perhaps other sections in the Laboratory can put her to work for them as time goes by."

So, it's back to nature for science at NAL. The animal head count now includes buffalo, cattle, sheep, ducks -- and a ferret. Can you ferret that?

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 3 No. 35, September 2, 1971

More information about Felicia can be found here.

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The fame of Felicia Ferret, NAL's own special, fur-lined pipe cleaner, has spread wide and far. She is the subject of an article in the current issue of TIME magazine, and the story of her unique talent will shortly appear in England. Felicia has been the theme of editorials in two Chicago newspapers and has prompted many inquiries, suggestions, and smiles of approval from the general public.

Adding to the store of information on ferrets in general, one question and answer article about Felicia's ancestors reports that the Department of Interior considers the ferret an endangered species and that, in 1970, action was taken to save the ferret population. A native of Africa, the ferret is now officially welcome in the State of South Dakota which has signed a cooperative agreement with the Interior Department to protect the ferret on 42,000 acres of the Badlands.

In an interview with Felicia's previous owner, Stan Fredin of Gaylord, Minnesota, a Minneapolis paper headlines, "Can a girl with three-color hair make it big in the electronic age?" Fredin notes that a ferret has brown, white and black hair all on one small, elastic body. Fredin is pleased at the sudden fame of one of the 300-400 ferrets he has raised over the years as a hobby. He also raises rare ducks, geese, and pheasants.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 3 No. 40, October 7, 1971

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NAL regrets to advise that Felicia Ferret died on Tuesday, May 9. Felicia made many friends both inside and outside the Laboratory. Her task at NAL was performed in the early construction phases of the Meson Laboratory when she pulled a string attached to her harness through 3" x 4" vacuum chambers that will eventually carry the proton beam. A swab was then attached to the string and pulled through to clean the tubes. Her naturally elastic body enabled her to extend herself through a remarkably small space, only as large as her head, as she pursued a course toward the light at the end of the chamber-tunnel.

Felicia's story has been told widely in the US and abroad, capturing the imagination and affection of many people. She had been in semi-retirement since last Fall when construction progress produced tube lengths that far exceeded her capacity, which was about 300 feet. A mechanical ferret developed by NAL engineers took over the job of cleaning vacuum chambers in the Main Ring - eight segments of about 2,600 feet each.

C. Crose
C. Crose
W. Pelczarski
W. Pelczarski
Photos by T.Fielding, NAL

Charles Crose, Accelerator Section, and Wally Pelczarski, Internal Target Section, gave a great deal of personal attention to Felicia, including caring for her in their homes when the regular boarding spot at the Winfield Mink Farm was not available. Charles cared for her at his home as late as Sunday and reports that she appeared to be feeling badly in the afternoon and he decided she needed professional attention early Monday morning. Medical treatment seemed to give Felicia quick relief; she had improved greatly Tuesday morning, but was found dead by the veterinarian after lunch Tuesday. A post-mortem test revealed a ruptured abscess in her intestinal tract.

It is planned that Felicia's body will be stuffed and mounted, to be displayed permanently as a symbol of early NAL development problems and solutions.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 4 No. 20, May 18, 1972

Click here for more about Felicia

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NAL's Buffalo Herd

NAL's buffalo herd, numbering 26 head in 1973, grazes in a 45-acre field adjacent to Road "D" on the NAL site. Visitors are welcome to view the animals from two pull-off spots on Road "D" which curves southwesterly off Batavia Road toward the Central Laboratory area just beyond the intersection of Batavia Road and Eola Road. The herd is a combination of the two original groups brought to NAL - one from Colorado, the other from Springfield, I11. Four calves were born into the herd in the summer of 1972. Main building of the Meson Area and the berm of the Neutrino Line can be seen in the background.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 5 No. 1, January 4, 1973

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Muskrat Hut

The pleasant atmosphere of the NAL site became known to the area muskrat population last Fall. Literally hundreds of the distinctive huts dotted the waters of the NAL site. Pictured in the photo on the right is an M-structure, some five feet tall, in a pond in the Village.

Then there's the enterprising couple who will spend the winter in the warmer waters inside the Main Ring, in the B13 sector pond. (Photo at lower right.)

Muskrat Hut

The muskrats will stay hidden under the icy crust during the winter, feeding on vegetation under the water. A few were seen recently for a short time on the banks of the swamps beside Batavia Road, basking in the noon day sun.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 5 No. 2, January 11, 1973


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The first day of Spring, 1973, had barely come and gone when one of the most delightful manifestations on the NAL site - the first buffalo calf of the year - arrived, unannounced, at 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21. Madame Buffalo then assumed a safe position in the center of the 80-acre pasture on Road B which is the NAL herd's "range," and cleaned up her 80-lb., chestnut-colored baby while the 25 other members of the shaggy family, one by one, sauntered over to inspect and presumably to welcome the newcomer, then returned to their buffalo business. By Thursday morning the youngster's wobbly legs had steadied enough that it could join the meandering herd, with occasional rest stops when Mother would wisely sink to the ground and the tiny figure would do likewise, usually on the sunny side of Mama.

The event marks the beginning of the second year in which the two original NAL herds have lived in a combined pasture area. In 1970, the Laboratory purchased the first six animals from a source in Colorado. To obtain better cross-breeding, another group of twelve was added in 1971 from a herd owned by the State of Illinois. The two groups were kept in separate pastures until 1972 when they were combined.

Known to be sensitive to familial structure, the animals have apparently now settled into a satisfactory social pattern. There is a dominant cow which has been the big bull's favorite. The young bulls rap horns occasionally to prove who's who. The herd has assumed a more natural pattern, roaming on 80 acres in a style more typical of a large range than a small barnyard.

The largest, oldest bull turned mean some time ago and was kept in "isolation" in a pen across Batavia Road. His days at NAL are numbered; he is dangerous, and a younger bull appears to be better for breeding purposes. With the pleasures of having a fine herd in captivity go the responsibilities of good herd management, says Rudy Dorner, NAL Site Manager.

New arrival in the NAL buffalo herd
New arrival in the NAL buffalo herd
Some of the old timers
Some of the old timers

"We are now beginning a program of tagging and sorting our herd. We'll then be able to keep better track of offspring and inter-breeding.

"Of course, we will cull the herd to achieve better quality. We have six young bulls now. Any more would create a problem and we would suffer from the unproductive battling. We'll be selling some animals; we'll trade with zoos to maintain our stock. Some of our animals may be sold for meat, but this is not uncommon among buffalo raisers. Contrary to what many people think, the bison is no longer in danger of extinction. There are 30,000 in North America, most of them in well-managed herds. But it is important that they be well managed, including being given innoculations for brucellosis, for instance," Dorner says.

Plans continue eventually to have a large herd of buffalo in the center of the NAL Main Ring. But, according to Dorner, if all the animals were to be kept there, they would be inaccessible to public viewing. It is likely therefore that a group of 25 or so will always graze in an accessible location. Presently the herd is fed hay and other feed supplements that have made a noticeable improvement in the coats of the animals. The pasture also has a mud wallow, very important for comfort during fly and insect season. Bare ground provides "itching spots" where the animals roll on their backs, especially in the spring, and thus loosen thick winter hair before the hot weather.

Anyone interested in more information on buffalo will enjoy the book, "The World of the Bison," by Ed Park (Lippincott, 1969). Park explains that the correct name of the North American animal known as a "buffalo" is bison. The true buffalo has no hump; that name belongs only to the water buffalo in Asia and to the African buffalo. But to most Americans, the "bison" is a buffalo and probably always will be, according to Park.

There are two bison sub-species, the Plains Bison and the Wood Bison. The NAL animals are Plains Bison; their origins are Oklahoma and Colorado; their ancestors once covered the vast Great Plains of North America, numbering 50 million at one time. Their unrestrained slaughter in the early 1900's was a tragic part of America's westward development, diminishing the population to about 500. According to a story in the New York Times, the U. S. National Buffalo Breeders Association, formed in 1968, now has 200 breeding members; the total buffalo population is increasing.

Although the NAL herd appears docile and harmless, visitors are asked to remember that these are not tame animals. Do not go into the fenced area or attempt to feed the buffalo.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 5 No. 12, March 29, 1973

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"Miss Dusty" now resides in NAL pasture
"Miss Dusty" now resides in NAL pasture

Now grazing on a 20-acre pasture at the National Accelerator Laboratory is a herd of twelve Scottish Highland cattle, a gift to Universities Research Association, Inc. (URA), Washington, D.C., the corporation of 52 universities which operates the Laboratory for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The cattle are a gift to U.R.A. by Mr. and Mrs. James Bannister of Wind Hill Farm, St. Charles, IL. The gift reveals the love of two people for these animals as well as the story of their interest in the development of the National Accelerator Laboratory.

When James Bannister's parents emigrated to America from Scotland, among the personal treasures that came with them was a large oil painting of a pastoral Scottish scene. Young Bannister carried vivid memories as he grew up of the shaggy, long-horned cattle in that painting. Many years later those memories were literally brought to life for Jim and his wife, Delta, a professor of dance education at Northwestern University who also loved the painting in the elder Bannisters' home. Delta discovered the shaggy beasts of the painting living on a ranch in the South Dakota Badlands as she traveled to their summer home near Jackson Hole, Wyo. in 1965. On their next trip West a few months later, it was inevitable that they should purchase their first three Scottish Highland cattle. "Mr. Badlands," "Miss Dusty," and "Princess Shirley" came to the Bannisters' 10-acre farm in St. Charles soon after, where a pine grove gave them protection from the hot sun of the summer.

Mr. & Mrs. Bannister on a recent visit to NAL
Mr. & Mrs. Bannister on a recent visit to NAL

For nine years the trio and their offspring basked in the comforts of the Bannisters' care and attention. They were, with certainty, part of the family. The friendly, gentle animals responded to particular words and commands like "Turn Around." Mr. Badlands was a "total gentleman," according to Delta Bannister. The herd ... was a delight to passersby on Dean Street. Their thick hair ... was groomed regularly, and they learned to arch their heads upward so that Delta could stroke the full length of their necks. But as the numbers grew, Delta had to stop this delightful practice - the clamor for a place in line, right behind Mr. Badlands with his 42-inch horn spread - was not conducive to Delta's welfare.

An increasing family of twelve created problems for these "parents" with many, varied interests. The decision to part with the loyal band came to the Bannisters last Fall. But, they could not go the usual market route with these close friends.

Once before Jim Bannister had participated in development of the National Accelerator Laboratory. Executive Director of the Fox Valley General Contractors Association and a Harvard alumnus, he was appointed in 1967 to be a member of the "Site Acquisition Committee," a group of distinguished advisers to the State of Illinois for the acquisition of the 6,800 acres in DuPage-Kane counties as a site for the National Accelerator Laboratory. Jim knows the NAL site very well from his experience on that committee. He recalls that even then he thought it an ideal place for a herd of Scottish Highland cattle. He followed NAL development in recent years closely enough to know of the interest the Laboratory has in preserving the natural aspects of the site. He knew of the NAL buffalo. He felt that his unique 4-legged friends might fit in well at NAL. The Bannisters contacted Laboratory Director R. R. Wilson about the matter, and their agreement followed shortly.

Twelve Scottish Highland cattle become newest members of NAL family
Twelve Scottish Highland cattle become newest members of NAL family

"We are happy to have found a place nearby where we feel the cattle will be enjoyed by many people," the Bannisters announced. "It is with great pleasure that we make this gift to URA and to the National Accelerator Laboratory which we helped get underway five years ago."

Scottish Highland cattle were first brought to the U.S. in 1922. There are about 12,000 head of registered Scottish Highland cattle in the U.S. at the present time. They are characterized by shaggy long hair and very widespread horns. The Bannisters found the horns to be an integral part of their cattle's personalities; their unique defense mechanism permits them to be gentle and sensitive personalities. They are kept as registered stock primarily by hobbyists and commercially with other beef animals. They are rugged, survive all climates, live longer lives than most beef cattle. "Scotty" calves are small at birth, but grow rapidly on the cows' 10% butterfat milk. Bannisters' cattle are yellow, white, silver, and red; in Scotland, this breed is red, yellow, or black. Because of their heavy hair, they do not accumulate the layer of fat under the skin as is the case with most beef animals. Their meat is not as marbled by fat and so, in this day of weight watchers and cholestrol counters, it is highly desirable.

"We are very pleased to accept this gift from the Bannisters. We know that the public will enjoy this new addition and these interesting animals will remind all of us of the Bannisters' friendship and service to the Laboratory," Donald R. Getz, Assistant Director of NAL, announced.

The Bannister herd consists of Mr. Badlands, two yearling bulls, a bull calf, seven cows and heifers, and a heifer calf. The two youngest animals, a bull calf and a heifer calf, have been named "Bannister" and "Rebecca" (of Ivanhoe) in honor of the donors. All of the animals carry the distinctive names characteristic of registered stock. The herd will be retained as a registered stock herd, according to NAL officials.

Photos by NAL photographers

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 5 No. 42, November 29, 1973

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Scottish Highland Cattle Scottish Highland Cattle

Scottish Highland Cattle

The Scottish Highland cattle given to the Laboratory in the Fall of 1973 by Mr. and Mrs. James Bannister have lost much of their shyness, are now content to stand still and stare at passing photographers who in turn marvel at the widespread horns and shaggy coats of the animals. Their pasture is located on old Batavia Road across the road from the buffalo pasture

Photos by NAL photographers

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 6 No. 13, April 4, 1974

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Scottish Highland Calf Scottish Highland Mother and Calf

Judy-Judy, first calf of 1975 in the Fermilab Scottish Highland Cattle herd, arrived during the night of March 25. As some times happens, Judy and her mother didn't "take" to each other at the start. This meant Gabe Provancial had to bottle feed her for several days and then introduce her to her mother. Now, all is well, they are together and out with the rest of the herd. They may be seen in their pasture on Batavia Road just east of the Safety Office. Gabe predicts several more calves in the cattle herd this spring.

Meanwhile, across Batavia Road, the salmonellosis outbreak in the buffalo herd appears to be stabilized. Only one animal out of the herd remains in a pen for special treatment. Outside, new feeders have slots sized to fit different sized animals. The young animals now do not have to compete for feed with the big, older buffaloes.

Special supplements and disease-fighting methods can be utilized. In the rigid structure of the buffalo family, a weak or small animal has less chance to catch up if stricken with a serious illness during the winter season. Once grass is available this situation will be greatly improved.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 7 No. 16, April 17, 1975

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Fermilab Buffalo Herd

T. K. George

T. K. George

Timothy K. George of Park Ridge, Illinois, spends six hours each day, six days a week, observing the Fermilab buffalo herd -the bison herd, to be correct. George is a graduate student at the University of Illinois and his observations are part of his studies in ethology (animal behavior).

Specifically, George is observing the mother-child relationship in the bison herd. With eleven new calves born in the herd since early May, George has plenty of subjects for study. His first observation days were spent establishing characteristics for identity -- color, size of horns, etc. Now he refers to them by numbers on ear tags and has named the calves by letters of the alphabet -- Alan, Betty Lou, Carl, Kim, Zeke, etc.

Tim is analyzing two hypotheses: That a calf leaves its mother's side, (1) because the mother rejects it during maturation; (2) because the calves find each other's company more enjoyable than the parent-child relationship. His preliminary observations indicate that the calves form their own youth group. They begin to nap and to play together like the neighborhood gang in just a few weeks.

Bison are known to be gregarious animals with definite social structure. Tim George notes, for example, that the bison introduced into the herd this spring (five were brought from South Dakota) frequently remain outside of the shelter while the "natives" barge inside. There is a dominant cow who reigns as herd matriarch. The male role is less dominant except in the rutting season when the two males vie for mates. But Tim notes that a nearly 50-50 male-female ratio in the Fermilab calves may indicate that in the original roaming herds, one male and one female may have been the mating pattern. The Fermilab herd now consists of 16 adults (14 female, 2 male) and 11 calves born in 1976.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 8 No. 25, July 1, 1976

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Dick Hoger, 30-power spotting scope
Dick Hoger, 30-power spotting scope
Bird watchers spot quarry in trees
Bird watchers spot quarry in trees
Upright Red-Tailed Hawk easily spotted
Upright Red-Tailed Hawk easily spotted

Forty-four observers put in 86 hours of volunteer bird-watching last December 19 in a 15-mile circular territory surrounding Fermilab, carrying out the "Fermilab count." The Fermilab site became, for the first time, the geographical center for the local "Christmas Bird Count," part of the National Audubon Society's 77th annual event, which takes place nationally at this time each year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also a sponsor and the Fermilab count was directed by Richard Hoger of the DuPage Audubon Society which is responsible locally for carrying out the mission.

The observers were assigned to eight different sections in the Fermilab count circle. (See the map below.) They were grouped in twelve parties with four more people observing at stationary feeders in the area. They covered 51 party-miles on foot and 340 in cars. This was one of 13 census areas in the Chicago region where the counting took place on this date. Nationally last year, 28,000 persons took part in the Christmas count, making it the largest outdoor sport in the world.

The compiled report of activities observed in the Christmas bird count fills 650 two-column pages. The data become the information needed to plot the winter range of North American birds and, in longer perspective, changes in bird ranges and numbers. Bird populations are good indications of environmental quality. They are mobile and quick to adapt to threatening conditions.

The official count day began at 7 a.m. and ended with a gathering for tabulation in the Fermilab Central Laboratory at 4:30 p.m. The bird-watchers begin from a central point in their assigned area, then spread out in all directions, sometimes spotting from cars with binoculars, other times on foot in areas known to be strong habitats.

The 60 species garnered in the Fermilab area included two Canvasback ducks spotted in the Main Ring at 7:30 a.m. The Canvasbacks are usually seen in Lake Michigan. At the other end of the day three Short-eared Owls were seen at 4 p.m., also at Fermilab. A Budgerigar, or Parakeet, reported in Area III for the past 2 1/2 months was among the most unusual sightings. The birders conjectured that it was a runaway from a private home that had learned to cope because regular feed was available. The Pied-billed Grebe in Area VI, the Rufous-sided Towhees at feeders in Area VI and VII are considered unusual birds at this time of the year, according to Hoger. There were 8,177 individual birds sighted in the Fermilab count.

There were a substantial number of raptors -- hawks and owls -- on the Fermilab count. Large numbers were also recorded for Mallard duck, Red-winged Blackbird, Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco, Tree Sparrow, Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, and American Goldfinch.

Dick Hoger has many friends at Fermilab through his job at the Argonne National Laboratory. Many others know Dick and his wife from their Willowbrook Bird Haven in Glen Ellyn where they care for hundreds of sick and injured birds and small animals which people bring to them. Some of these are released in the Fermilab Main Ring so that they can return to their natural habitat in relative safety after they have recuperated.

Click here to see the map of the bird count area, December 19, 1976.



Canada Goose



Blue Jay





Common Crow


Black Duck



Black-capped Chicakadee


Sharp-shinned Hawk



White-breasted Nuthatch


Red-tailed Hawk



Red-breasted Nuthatch


Rough-legged Hawk



Brown Creeper


American Kestrel





Ring-necked Pheasant



Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler


Herring Gull



House Sparrow


Rock Dove



Rusty Blackbird


Mourning Dove





Short-eared Owl



Purple Finch


Belted Kingfisher



American Goldfinch


Common (Yellow-sh.) Flicker



Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco


Hairy Woodpecker



Tree Sparrow


Downy Woodpecker



Swamp Sparrow


Horned Lark



Song Sparrow


Pied-billed Grebe



Accipiter sp.





Rufous-sided Towhee


Great Horned Owl





Source: The Village Crier Vol. 9 No. 4, January 27, 1977

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New Buffalo Calf
Mama Buffalo and Baby

Labor Day came early for a mother buffalo at Fermilab.

A female calf, the first to be born on site this year, arrived Friday about noon in the pasture near Farm 43 and D Road. Vic Kerkman, buffalo herdsman, reported the mother (designated No. 5) and daughter are doing fine. The delivery took place without human assistance, Kerkman said.

He estimated the calf weighs about 40 pounds, stands 26 inches high and measures 38 inches from nose to tip of her tail. "She's good and healthy," Kerkman said, adding that the calf was almost immediately accepted by the mother.

Several other Fermilab cows show indications that more calves are on the way according to Kerkman. Like a typical new father, he passed out "It's a Girl!" - banded cigars to friends.

The latest mama buffalo is one of the original cows brought in when Fermilab's buffalo farm was established in 1970. Five other cows from South Dakota joined the herd last year. Twelve calves -- seven males, five females -- were born in 1976. About 30 calves have been produced by the Laboratory's cows and two bulls since the herd was formed.

The purpose of the buffalo herd is to preserve and restore a bit of Illinois heritage that was here some 200 years ago.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 9 No. 34, September 1, 1977

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"Downies" and parents at ORNL
"Downies" and parents at ORNL

Fermilab's swan flock expanded from two to four recently, thanks to employees at Oak Ridge (Tenn.) National Laboratory. ORNL employees donated two white mutes to the Laboratory and its employees as a gesture of good will.

Fermilab's newest feathered beauties join a mated pair acquired in 1972, also from the Oak Ridge facility. Dave Sauer, Site Services, arranged the transaction. Vivian Jacobs, ORNL Chemical Technology Division and their "swan keeper," said the newcomers were among five cygnets -- four females and a male -- born in May.

The brood, to 13-year-old parents, was the largest number in several years Jacobs said. She explained that ORNL had to find new homes for the cygnets since swan parents eventually turn away their offspring. Sisters of Fermilab's latest regal birds were relocated to a private zoo in Auburn, Ala.

Groundskeepers R. Morel (L) and J.Kalina release Tennessee swans at Swan Lake
Groundskeepers R. Morel (L) and
J.Kalina release Tennessee swans at Swan Lake

A commercial jet out of Knoxville delivered the Tennessee emigrants to O'Hare Airport. Receiving department personnel chauffeured the birds to their new home on Fermilab's Swan Lake. Bob Kraft, their new guardian, said the swans' wings were clipped to prevent them from flying off and getting lost ... or falling prey to hunters or animal predators.

If the pond freezes this winter, indoor shelter will be provided, Kraft said. Corn, duck feed and cafeteria leftovers such as lettuce comprise their diet. The birds feed by dropping food in water and then quickly sucking it down.

Mute swans are considered the handsomest and easiest to domesticate, Jacobs said. The variety is misnamed, she said, because mutes have a voice, they hiss and even trumpet. Other North American varieties are the trumpeter and whistling swan.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 9 No. 43, November 3, 1977

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Herdsman rounds up Scottish cattle
Herdsman rounds up Scottish cattle

Brookfield Zoo beame the new home last month for Fermilab's herd of Scottish Highland cattle. Thirteen head -- including two calves -- were donated to the zoo. The calves will become part of Brookfield's Children's Petting Zoo. The herd was donated to the zoo in hopes that it can be rebuilt to its former strength with fulltime care in greener pastures.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 9 No. 50, December 29, 1977

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Fermi bird-counters were L-R: J. Kumb, R. Johnson, R. Hoger, D. Carey, B. Foster
Fermi bird-counters were L-R: J. Kumb,
R. Johnson, R. Hoger, D. Carey, B. Foster

About 9,150 birds of 60 species were spotted in the second annual Fermilab Christmas bird count.

The count was conducted Saturday, Dec. 17, 1977 by the DuPage Audubon Society. Held in conjunction with the national Audubon Society's 78th annual census nationwide, the local tally enlisted 43 volunteer observers, including two Fermilab people. They were: David Carey, Computing Department and Hannu Miettinen, Theory Department.

Starting at 4 a.m., observers logged 78 hours of bird-counting time. The birders were divided into 11 parties of 4 to 6 persons each; five persons monitored bird feeders during the count. Fermilab was the focal point of the count area: a circle with a radius of seven and one-half miles as far north as Wayne; south to Aurora; east to Winfield; and west to the Fox River Valley.

Party-hours comprised 54 on foot, 24 by car and 22 at feeders. Of 425.5 party-miles covered, 367 were by auto and 58.5 on foot.

Richard Hoger, staff assistant in the supply division at Argonne National Laboratory, coordinated the count activities. Paul Mooring was the compiler. The Fermilab area was among five Chicago areas where counts were made. Mooring said. Nationally, counters were at work from Dec. 17 to Jan. 2 on one-day counts.

Observers were assigned to eight sub-areas in the Laboratory count circle. Each volunteer was issued instructions, a bird checklist and documentation sheet to record unusual bird sightings. Volunteers chipped in $1.50 each for materials.

In temperatures ranging from 45 to 60 degrees, the birders covered mostly open fields but also scanned woods, road sides, water and developed areas.

Starlings (1,605) led the list of birds spotted. Others included: mallard ducks (1, 314); tree sparrow (965); and crows (538). Large numbers of Canada geese, dark-eyed junco and rock doves were also recorded.

According to Mooring, unusual sightings included a vesper sparrow at Cantigny and a pine grosbeak spotted along the Prairie Path.

About 4:30 p.m., 25 bird-watchers gathered in the Central Laboratory atrium to compile results. The data from Fermilab and around the nation, Canada and Mexico will be tabulated and published this summer in the Audubon Society's American Birds magazine.

The information will be used to plot the winter range of North American birds and changes in bird ranges and numbers. In the past, over 25,000 persons have participated in the bird count. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a co-sponsor.

In 1977, observers counted 8,177 individual birds of 60 species. Among unusual birds noted by 44 counters in 86 work-hours were two canvasback ducks seen in the Main Ring and three Short-eared owls also spotted on site. A Budgerigar (parakeet) reported near Winfield was among the most unusual sightings.

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 10 No. 1, January 5, 1978

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American Barn Owl: Fermilab's latest conservation effort
American Barn Owl: Fermilab's latest conservation effort
Barn owl meets K. Bell, Lincoln Park Zoo Naturalist
Barn owl meets K. Bell, Lincoln Park Zoo Naturalist
TV crew films birds' arrival
TV crew films birds' arrival

Endangered barn owls are finding sanctuary in the shadow of Fermilab's accelerator.

About a month ago, three fledglings were placed in an abandoned barn on site. From a manmade nest, they were fed until they could fly and find food on their own. Scientists are monitoring their movements with small radio transmitters banded to the birds.

Cooperating in the owl restoration program are: Fermilab; Lincoln Park and Brookfield Zoos; the Fox Valley Park District's Red Oak Nature Center, North Aurora; and the Illinois Endangered Species Board.

Tom Maechtle, nature center naturalist, is conducting the project. "These owls," he said, "should form their own hunting territories. We hope to see them eventually breeding in the same barn or local vicinity." From a blind set up in the barn, the birds' movements are being recorded in detail.

"From these notes we hope to gather information on the social behavior of barn owls and other raptors," Maechtle said. "I'm sure we will discover methods that will improve our repopulation attempts in following years."

State conservation officials say no more than three or four barn owl sightings are reported annually. Their decline is due to loss of habitat, pesticides and man, who believes that they prey on barnyard fowl.

Called nature's most efficient mousetraps, barn owls each eat about 1,000 rats and mice per year.

Fermilab's owls were hatched from domestic eggs at Brookfield and Lincoln Park Zoos. Placed on site, they were fed a natural diet via a trap door until they were old enough to venture out at will. Additional releases onsite are planned; they are expected to return each Spring to breed. In about two years, scientists expect breeding will take place among the released owls.

Maechtle said adult barn owls, also called monkey-faced owls, weigh two pounds and have wingspreads of up to 30 inches.

Source: FermiNews Vol. 1 No. 9, July 6, 1978

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by Rod Walton, Environmental,
Safety and Health Section

Fermilab Coyote
Photo by Robert McKemie

He is sly, cunning, swift, smart, but more often than not undone through his own devices. She is called sun dog, laughing dog, barking dog or little wolf. The ambiguity surrounding coyotes extends to the pronunciation of their name: you say kai-ó-te, I say kaí-oat. The word comes from the Aztec word coyotl, which suggests that a three-syllable name might be more authentic.

Few animals have elicited more interest and emotion than the coyote, whose reputation in Native American lore as a sly and treacherous survivor holds up well against the animal's natural history since European settlement. Campaigns to eradicate the coyote have met with little success. If anything, the coyote has extended its range -- ironically with the help of settlers, who were remarkably successful at driving out the coyote's cousin and erstwhile competitor, the wolf.

Employees and visitors at Fermilab often see coyotes in the early morning, gracefully loping across the fields. Jim Kalina, of Roads and Grounds, estimates that as many as 15 animals currently reside at the Lab, including triplet pups born here in 1996. The young animals typically disperse after a year or two, seeking out their own home ranges. Although the animals at Fermilab are generally in good health, some individuals have contracted mange, a common canine disease.

Coyotes are remarkably adaptable. They tolerate our presence, and even capitalize on some of the fruits of civilization. They gladly raid garbage pails or take advantage of cast-off tidbits, and they demonstrate an uncanny ability to avoid humans in our more predatory moods. On the other hand, they present no real threat. A recent survey of literature from the last 30 years produced reports of only 16 attacks on humans in North America, none of which were fatal.

Reading the signs

The indirect impact of coyotes on human endeavors is more controversial. Depradation by coyotes on livestock, especially sheep, is often due to rogues killing weak and vulnerable animals. For the most part, coyotes are opportunists who prefer smaller, more tractable game. Lynda Randa, an ecologist from Northern Illinois University, conducted a study from 1993 to 1995 at Fermilab and found that over 90 percent of coyote droppings contained small mammal remains. About 80 percent of those were field mice and rabbits. The remainder were squirrels, pheasant, deer (probably scavenged), invertebrates and plant material.

Coyotes tend to be nocturnal, although if not harassed by humans, they will hunt during the daylight. They prefer a mixture of wooded and open land, a preference nicely fulfilled by human-created landscapes. Before 1900, there were probably few coyotes east of the Mississippi River, but they quickly settled the new farmland after the eradication of wolves.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources reports that the state's coyote population has remained stable for the last seven years. Local naturalists and biologists agree that the state-wide population is steady, but the urban and suburban population seems to be increasing. Animal control agents destroy one to three coyotes each year at O'Hare and Midway airports to protect aircraft from collisions, and the number of complaints from suburban neighborhoods has increased.

In Native American cosmogony, coyotes are portrayed as creators, "singing humans into being" or placing the North Star in the heavens. They are said to bring rain (or not), and have the ability to change the appearance of things. Whatever the coyotes' role in determining the fabric of the world, we will likely continue to share it with them in a grudging, sometimes admiring coexistence.

Source: FermiNews February 6, 1998, page 2

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See below for more information on Fermilab's wildlife: