A bison named Becky gave birth to an 80-pound calf early Wednesday morning at the County Fairgrounds to the surprise of a security guard who witnessed the delivery.
"There's feet coming out of the buffalo . . . what do we do?" the guard asked Livestock Supervisor Jim Bailey in a 4:30 a.m. telephone call, according to fairgrounds spokeswoman Georgia Cluver.
It wasn't a complete surprise to everyone, though.
When Becky the Buffalo arrived at the fairgrounds in February from the historic Buffalo Ranch in Irvine, she was believed to be pregnant. The owner at the ranch had observed her mating before the ranch was sold early this year.
Then, after the sale, four North American bison, including Becky, were put up for sale. Because Becky is a wild animal, fairground workers were unable to examine her belly to see if she was with calf, Cluver said.
"She looked fat for a buffalo, but she gets a lot more food as a domestic buffalo," Cluver said. "We thought she was just maybe a little heavy."
Becky, who weighs about 1,000 pounds and is 7 years old, delivered her calf without help.
According to Cluver, Becky has taken on a new behavior with motherhood--she growls gently when people come too near to her and the calf.
The two bison are penned near the Centennial Farm at the fairgrounds. There, hundreds of schoolchildren on farm tours were able to admire Becky and the calf Wednesday morning. In addition, fairgrounds workers stopped by the pen all day.
"It's good; now she won't be lonely," security guard Beth Renkoski said.
Spring has apparently sprung with a vengeance at the fairgrounds, and many other animals have also given birth recently. There are twin baby goats, a baby donkey, lambs and a litter of eight piglets. Admission to the farm is free.
There is a contest to help name the bison calf. Send entries to the Orange County Fair, attention Becky the Buffalo, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626.
The winner gets a season pass to the summer fair and a picture of Becky and her calf.