The Buttonwood Park Zoo is mourning the loss of Sarah, a 22-year-old American bison who came here in 2000, just in time to be present for the Zoo’s grand reopening. She called BPZOO home for the last 21 years.
Being one of the Zoo’s most geriatric residents, Sarah’s caretakers paid special attention to her age-related needs. In September 2021, they noted that Sarah seemed to have some trouble navigating her habitat. BPZOO veterinary staff evaluated Sarah, and after consulting with a veterinary ophthalmologist, determined that her protruding eyes were likely an early indication of glaucoma. While Sarah’s prognosis was eventual blindness, animal care staff felt confident that her quality of life was still high and that they could continue to ensure she was comfortable and well cared for. Sarah was closely monitored until November 2021, where she began to exhibit concerning neurological symptoms that were consistent with those of a midbrain tumor. BPZOO veterinary and animal care staff consulted with a veterinarian who specializes in large animals. Based on that recommendation and an internal quality-of-life assessment, the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize her.
The life expectancy of American bison is 15 to 20 years. BPZOO feels fortunate to have had such long-lived bison. Geriatric animal care is an area that BPZOO dedicates many resources to and has had much success in.
Sarah had shared this beautiful habitat with longtime companion Grace and before that a male named George. Sarah, Grace and George all came to the Zoo together in 2000. George sired six calves here at BPZOO. Sarah had three female calves named Nutmeg, Sage, and Cinnamon. Once mature, these calves moved onto other AZA facilities as part of an organized breeding program. Since Grace’s passing in 2018, Sarah had been cohabitating with a variety of waterfowl, a pair of sandhill cranes, and Autumn and Olive, two white-tailed deer fawns that were orphaned earlier this summer.

Our staff, and our visitors, will certainly miss the presence of these iconic, majestic animals. Whether they were seen slowly, methodically grazing or so perfectly laying in the open pasture tails swinging. Their silly and wild romps through the deep snow will forever stick in our memories as will the tossing, smashing, and interacting with enrichment items- especially Christmas trees. Those who were lucky enough to care for these animals will fondly remember the quiet and thoughtful training sessions and the attentiveness when the barn shift door opened. The loss of Sarah is difficult, but our team takes comfort in knowing she, and so many of our resident animals, are living long, full lives.

The Zoo is currently pursuing adding new bison to this habitat and we hope to be able to share updates over the next few months.