ABERDEEN (AP) – It’s late morning on the last day of April, and a bison cow sets herself off from two others who have new calves tucked in close as they lazily graze and chew cud in the sun.
The standoffish cow, Annie, will be the third to give birth at the Wylie Park Zoo. It’s a sure sign she’s nearly ready when she distances herself from the others.
“She’s part of the original Wylie stock herd. We have very sought-after animals because they’re docile and have good genetics,” said park supervisor Mark Grote of the bison herd.
Annie was born at the zoo in 2013. Cheyenne and Dixie, the other cows, are from an Onaka ranch, part of a program to keep a healthy genetic line. The calves on average are 65 pounds at birth, Grote told the Aberdeen American News. They get sold off as surplus around December each year.
The bull will be gradually introduced back to the herd after the last calf is born.
In the shop barn, a maternity ward has been set up for a handful of nanny Nigerian dwarf goats. Three sets of twins have already been born. The ones that are about a week or so older have been introduced to the petting zoo barn. They are only the size of small cats. They’re a hobby breed and great for controlling noxious weeds. That’s why they were introduced to the park about three years ago, Grote said. In all there are eight rams, six nannies and now six kids and counting in the herd.
At about 2 weeks old, they start drinking water on their own. Eventually their mothers will wean them. These kids are here to stay as Wylie grows its herd. Currently, the males are out in the geese pen keeping things mowed down and weeds at bay.
The whitetail, sika deer and elk will be bringing their next generation into the world in a couple weeks, Grote estimates. The park, empty of much of its normal spring foot traffic because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is peaceful, with the only sounds from wee bleats, chirping song birds and the rumble of an off-distance mower.
Myriad projects have been getting done at Wylie Park and the zoo during the health crisis. Maintenance and animal crews have been working as usual.
“We’ll have the prettiest park,” said Grote, only half-joking.
He sees the zoo as a great therapy for those feeling lonely, isolated and cooped up, so the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions might help folks out in that sense. On May 8, local residents were again able to roam where the bison, deer, llamas, elks and goats play.