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Article updated: 3/1/2013 5:15 PM

Elgin zoo gets two new bison

By Elena Ferrarin

Finally, there are three bison again at Lords Park Zoo in Elgin, the latest specimen in a tradition that began in 1909.

Drew and Becky -- both 13-year-old females -- arrived Thursday morning from Brookfield Zoo, which donated them for free.

"They seemed calm and relaxed, and seemed to enjoy their new facility," Elgin Parks Superintendent Jim Bell said. "So far, cross my fingers, everything is looking pretty good."

The pair joined longtime resident Pokey, a 21-year-old female, who had been alone since her companions, Cahoya, 24, and Dakota, 18, died in 2011 and 2010 respectively.

The newcomers -- whose favorite treat is carrots -- were initially kept away from Pokey, but they acclimated so quickly that they were all introduced ahead of schedule Friday morning, Bell said.

Drew and Becky are named after Ron Zdrubecky, a retired keeper at Brookfield Zoo, where the bison had been living since 1999.

Friends of Lords Park Zoo co-founder Laurie Faith Gibson said she stopped by the zoo Friday morning before going to work. The three bison seemed to get along just fine.

"It's nice to see them the next day, and they're all kind of roommates now," she said.

Gibson visited Brookfield Zoo in late 2011 when a group of volunteers and city staff examined Brookfield's bison pen. Using that as a model, Lord's Park Zoo built a new, $55,000 pen in spring 2012.

The new pen has better viewing for visitors, but also more secure distances between visitors and animals, Bell said.

Brookfield Zoo officials had mentioned donating Becky back in 2011, Gibson said.

"She was kind of on the low end of the totem pole in the herd pecking order. Some bison were pregnant, and they were concerned about their population size," she said.

"It was very generous of Brookfield Zoo. They gave them to the city for free, you can't ask for something better."

Drew's and Becky's arrival was postponed from mid-December, because Drew had broken part of her horn off as she was being loaded onto a trailer for the trip to Elgin, Bell said. "The horn appears to be fine at this point," he said.

The zoo is part of the 108-acre Lord's Park, where the Elgin Public Museum is also located.

The next public bison feeding takes place from 7 to 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 30. The cost is $1 for children, $2 for adults, and free for members. For more information visit the Lords Park Zoo Facebook page at facebook.com/LordsParkZoo.

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