- Associated Press - Thursday, May 8, 2014

FREMONT, Ind. (AP) - A new family is greeting the newborns at Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve.

Nate and KaSandra Heller of Cooney, Ohio, became managers of the preserve and its 200-head herd in March. The Hellers said hello to the first calf of the year on April 26 at 10 a.m. There are around eight tawny babies in the pasture now, and as many as 40 more will join them, The Herald Republican reported (http://bit.ly/1oalfNg ).

Though the winter was harsh for many, the thick-hided buffalo weathered the snow and ice with ease.

“Their body is ergonomically designed just to push through blizzards,” said Nate, who has worked with cattle and has a forage production certificate. When he started at the preserve this spring, he also was working a heating and cooling job.

“I grew up in the construction field and I was also a mechanic for five years,” Nate said. He is able to handle a lot of the maintenance requirements for preserve owner Dr. John Trippy. The facility includes the White Pine Lodge, a bunkhouse for family lodging, large and small teepees, and a safari tent on an elevated platform in the preserve’s bird sanctuary.

John says when you wake up in the morning that all you’ll see and hear is all the different birds that come out here,” said Nate.

On a windy Wednesday, bluebirds were flitting across the preserve’s main drive and meadow larks were swooping from one field to the other. The buffalo are currently staying in the northern pastures, and soon will move to greener grass in an adjacent expanse, where sandhill crane like to wade in a pond, said Nate.

The preserve is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Tours are offered on the hour along with trail rides.

KaSandra has an extensive background in horse training, and the Hellers expect to expand the horseback opportunities.

“We take them on a 45-minute trail ride. We have two different trails and we’re going to do more,” said KaSandra. One ride goes around the perimeter of the preserve and other traverses wooded areas and Fish Lake.

The Hellers encouraged local people to visit. “Remember your family and get off the cellphone for a little bit,” said Nate.

Trippy started the preserve in 1993. The herd has been a standout with the National Bison Association, and was recently recommended to provide the starting animals for a preserve in Mississippi. Thirty of the Fremont animals have been selected for that purpose.

The preserve’s gift shop sells buffalo meat. A spring rendezvous is planned June 7-15.

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Information from: Herald Republican, http://www.heraldrepublicanonline.com/