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Hart bison dies after vet care

• Young male had undergone routine surgery.

Posted: April 17, 2008 3:22 a.m.
Updated: June 18, 2008 5:02 a.m.

A group of bison at William S. Hart Park rest in the afternoon sun on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, a one-year-old bison died after coming out of an anesthetic sleep following an operation.

Scientists and animal specialists are reviewing data today to determine what caused a young American bison to die suddenly Wednesday morning at William S. Hart Park.

The bison, about one year old, died suddenly after emerging from a general anesthetic administered by a local veterinarian, as part of a routine castration procedure.

David G. Jallo, regional park superintendent, said the bison was vaccinated, given vitamins and put under an anesthetic by the vet before the surgical operation which is performed on all male bison at the park to prevent inbreeding.

"If that bison was to reproduce with the herd, it would lead to inbreeding within the herd," he said. "We have to do it within a year of their birth."

All male bison in the herd undergo the same castration procedure, Jallo said, adding that Wednesday's death is out of the ordinary.

"The bison was put under anesthetic," Jallo said. "Shortly after that, the animal had risen, walked away and then somehow stumbled. When it fell, it injured itself somehow. Staff rushed to it and found that the animal had expired."

The bison, named Happy, died at about 11:35 a.m.

Jallo reflected: "That makes it both ironic and sad.

"It's possible (the death) is associated with the anesthetic," he said, adding that only a close examination of the carcass can reveal the exact cause of death.

Within an hour of Happy's collapse, the carcass was whisked away and taken to the University of California in San Bernardino where a necropsy is to be performed.

The American bison, about 12 in the local herd, are a popular attraction at Hart park. The adults can grow to more than 2,000 pounds.

"The park's animal keepers feel terrible about this," Jallo said of Wednesday's death. "It's really difficult for them since they care for them 365 days of the year."

In 2004, a bison from the same herd died though not from circumstances stemming from the castration.

Jallo called the 2004 incident "controversial" but said he was not in a position to comment on it.

A county report determined that the bull buffalo found dead in July 2004 had most likely been corralled away from food or water for several hot days. The exact details would never be known, as the carcass was destroyed shortly after it was discovered July 27, 2004.

The acting park superintendent at the time said the buffalo had not been corralled on the days in question.


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