Fermilab’s herd of American bison, our national mammal, draws thousands to the lab every year. While the grass-munching megafauna may appear docile, most visitors know not to provoke these one-ton creatures or even to think of inciting them into an animated state.
But many people are unaware that there is additional reason to be cautious around Fermilab bison: A few masquerading members of the herd become werebison on full-moon nights.
This news was first reported in October 2017, when a member of the lab’s security staff drove by the bison pasture with the windows down. Hearing a low-frequency howl, he spied the silhouette of a baying bison. (“His head was tilted toward the moon and everything,” the security guard is reported to have said.)
And while a recent genetic test of the herd did not turn up any werebison DNA, the phenotypic and auditory evidence is solid:
- Werebison are slightly less furry than bison (as they transition into the werebison state, they shed their fur).
- Werebison have thicker, bushier tails than bison.
- Werebison have slightly longer teeth than bison.
- The lowing of a werebison is a little more guttural than a bison’s.
Only experts can see the differences, which are subtle. Some people say werebison seem not to change all that much when they transform and that, really, they look like they just want to hang out.
But that is the danger: The werebison’s nearly identical appearance to bison makes it difficult for a layperson to distinguish them. This is one of the insidious tricks nature plays on the naive or careless, and it is the werebison’s most horrifying characteristic.
If you do happen to be bit by a werebison, please go to the medical office immediately to be administered a serum. (The office is open on full-moon nights.) Be warned that only a few doses of the serum are available.
Editor’s note: Some have noted that the ‘werebison’ nomenclature is misleading. ‘Werebison’ translates into ‘man-bison.’ We know, but the name has stuck. We should be grateful the name isn’t ‘werebuffalo.’