With Becky’s death Sunday night, Elgin’s Lords Park Zoo has only one bison left in its collection.
“It was saddening to hear this news,” said Friends of Lords Park Zoo President Terry Gabel. “But when I talked to (parks superintendent) Greg Hulke about what happened Sunday night, he assured me that the city plans to find two more bison for the zoo.”
Becky was diagnosed with arthritis a few years ago, Gabel said. Staff discovered Sunday night that his arthritic leg was broken, making it impossible for him to stand or stand without assistance.
Following a veterinary examination, it was determined that it would be more humane to euthanize the 24-year-old animal.
This was the second loss of bison at the zoo since September. Drew, also 24, had to be euthanized When you fall and can’t get up on your own. But unlike Becky, Drew was in poor health for about six months before his death, authorities said.
As with Drew, Becky will be brought to a veterinary facility at the University of Illinois to determine whether any other problems affected her health or led to her death, officials said.
The only remaining bison is Takoda, a 7-year-old female from the herd kept at Fermilab in Batavia in 2016.
Bison kept at the zoo can live up to 25 years, according to the National Park Service.
Sharry Blazier, director of the Elgin Public Museum, which is collaborating on the “Meet the Bison” program, said she and visiting family members decided to pass by the pen where Becky and Takoda were located shortly after the museum closed at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Blazier said the two animals seemed fine at the time.
“Still, Becky was old for a bison and had arthritis, so her death was unexpected but inevitable,” he said.
Becky and Drew came to Lords Park Zoo in 2013 as a gift from Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.
At the time, the zoo had one remaining female bison named Po-Key, who died shortly after Drew and Becky’s arrival. 22-year-old Po-Key was also euthanized when he could no longer stand.
Gabel said bison have been the center of attention at the zoo on and off since 1909. Because they are pack animals, it’s important for them to be in groups, he said.
“Our hope is that the city can find two more people to join Takoda in the near future,” he said. Ideally, the animals would be different in age so they don’t lose two animals in a row like they did this year, Gabel said.
Mike Danahey is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.