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Sedgwick County Zoo welcomes bison from Tallgrass preserve

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, May 25, 2014, at 2:14 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, May 25, 2014, at 2:54 p.m.


Want to see the Tallgrass herd?

If you want to see the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve’s bison herd near Strong City, you can hike within their pasture. But don’t get too close. Bison can be fast and dangerous. Those who are skittish of being within the pasture may use other trails that offer views of the bison.

For more information on the preserve, go to www.nps.gov/tapr/index.htm.

The newest bison at the Sedgwick County Zoo couldn’t have a more fitting name given her Kansas home: “Windy.”

Windy came to the zoo last fall, went through the quarantine process and joined the zoo’s two other bison on display last week.

Windy is about 1 1/2. The Nature Conservancy of Kansas donated her to the zoo.

Windy was born on the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, where the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy manage a herd of 22 bison. The herd started in 2009, a news release from the zoo said, with 13 bison from Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. The herd is one of two known public herds with no documented historic cattle inbreeding, the news release said.

Rob Manes, state director for the conservancy, said the group gave Windy to the zoo in part to have an opportunity to partner with it.

“The Sedgwick County Zoo is one of the finest facilities of its kind in the country,” Manes said. “But more important, it gives us an opportunity to create awareness and appreciation for bison and their keystone importance in the ecology and culture of the Great Plains. It was just a very natural partnership.”

Boomer, a male who will turn 5 on the Fourth of July, and Pawnee, a 23-year-old female, are the zoo’s other two bison.

Windy weighs about 600 pounds. Boomer, who came from the Great Bend Zoo, weighs about 1,500 pounds for comparison. Pawnee came to the zoo from a foundation in Oklahoma, zoo spokeswoman Melissa Graham said.

Alfalfa is Windy’s favorite treat, and she enjoys “sparring” with branches, Graham said.

Windy and Boomer don’t cotton to produce too much, but Boomer does enjoy cantaloupe rinds. Pawnee likes produce such as sweet potato and apples, Graham said.

The zoo feeds each bison grain, some alfalfa and as much prairie hay as they want each day. Windy gets 2 pounds of grain a day, Boomer 5 and Pawnee 8.

“Pawnee is the lead cow. She generally gets her way, though as Boomer gets bigger, he is slowly taking over the herd,” Graham said in an e-mail.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SGCountyDeb.

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