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Article updated: 7/22/2011 7:42 PM

Oldest bison at Lords Park Zoo dies

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Cahoya, the oldest bison at the Lords Park Zoo in Elgin, has gone onto greener pastures.

The 24-year-old bison passed away Friday morning, after living her entire life at the zoo. The official cause was unknown but an email from City Manager Sean Stegall to the city council indicates her advanced age, rather than the heat wave, was the reason behind her death. Captive bison typically live to between eight and 10 years.

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Cahoya was regularly put under sedation to trim the hoofs that had grown too long and impaired her movement. She was also taking medication and receiving regular inspections.

While she was sedated, Dr. Bill Morrisey of Seneca Bovine Services took X-rays and drew Cahoya's blood. Both determined she was in fair health for her age, but that arthritis had begun to set in.

Morrisey, who could not be reached for comment Friday, questioned whether she'd survive the sedation because "it becomes increasingly difficult for them to recover," Stegall wrote.

While Morrisey said larger animals have been dying rapidly this week due to the heat, "He did not believe that staff could have done anything to prevent her death," Stegall wrote.

Cahoya's death came five days before city council members were due to discuss matching the $22,000 the Friends of Lords Park Zoo raised for a new fence around the bison pen. Once the new fence goes up, the city will be willing to add younger bison, Mayor Dave Kaptain said.

Her death also comes a year-and-a-half after Dakota, one of the other bison in the pen, died from pneumonia complications at the age of 18. Their absence now leaves Pokey, 20, on her own.

"Anybody that's had animals and dogs ... it's part of what happens," Kaptain said. "It appears to me that we did what we could. It was well taken care of, it's past its life expectancy and it was time."

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