Sparky the bison survives lightning strike, now thriving at refuge

Karen Viste-Sparkman/USFWS

Sparky the bison survives lightning strike, now thriving at refuge

By Xoel Cardenas | Posted - Jan. 9, 2016 at 3:31 p.m.


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PRAIRIE CITY, Iowa — The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are about 1 in 12,000, according to an estimate by the National Weather Service. For Sparky the bison, he's already met that fate — and survived.

At 11 years old and weighing around 1,600 pounds, Sparky is a bison at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. In 2013, Sparky was struck by lightning, and, to the surprise of all, is still going strong.

In July 2013, biologist Karen Viste-Sparkman noticed a bull standing by himself instead of with the herd. With help from her binoculars, Sparkman noticed that the bison looked bloody and was burned over a large area of his body. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Sparky's hump was missing hair and there was a large lump on his hind leg, which biologists determined to be the exit wound. The location of the exit would indicated that Sparky was lying down at the time of the lightning strike.

It was expected that Sparky wouldn't survive too long after the incident. However, Sparky showed positive signs that encouraged Sparkman and everyone at the refuge. Sparky was standing when his injuries were discovered and his wounds began to slowly heal. Sparky continued to walk, albeit with a limp. Sparky was nicknamed after the incredible incident.

Today, Sparky still stands strong at the wildlife refuge in Iowa. Before being struck by lightning, Sparky fathered three calves. The wildlife refuge biologists are hopeful genetic testing will show that Sparky successfully reproduced after the strike because, as they put it, "He's one tough bison!" Xoel Càrdenas is the Evening Content Manager at KSL.com. Xoel's professional resume includes Yahoo!, Fox Deportes, The Telegraph and Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter: @XoelCardenas.

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Xoel Cardenas

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