Newsroom Midwest Region

Catching up with Sparky, the world’s toughest bison

October 16, 2017

Sparky the bison wears scars from surviving a lightning strike. Photo by Melissa Clark/USFWS.
Sparky the bison wears scars from surviving a lightning strike. Photo by Melissa Clark/USFWS.

Who can forget the world’s toughest bison? Back in January 2016, we told the tale of Sparky, a bison that earned his name after surviving a lightning strike at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. His amazing story of survival quickly spread across the globe with coverage from Popular Science, Gizmodo, AOL, The Weather Channel and more. We recently checked in with refuge biologists to see what Sparky has been up to.

After the lightning strike in summer 2013, Sparky spent most of his time hanging out near the family group, but not really with them. The exit wound on his back leg left him with a limp and caused him to move a little slower than the rest of the bison. All of that changed this summer when he seemed to have attracted a girlfriend! She stays back with him and they move together, slowly. Biologists said the pair are almost always spotted together.

Prior to the strike, Sparky had fathered three calves. Yearly genetic testing has shown that Sparky has not fathered any calves since the strike, but there may still be hope! If you ever find yourself near Des Moines, stop by Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and see if you can spot Sparky.

Here's a video from when we recently checked in on Sparky.

A narrated and audio described version of this video is also available.