Elgin zoo bison Po-Key dies at 21
By Mike Danahey email@example.com March 12, 2013 5:46PM
Resident bison Po-Key (left) watches two companions joining her at Lords Park Zoo in Elgin last week. Po-Key, 21 died Tuesday, zoo offcials said. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: April 14, 2013 6:40AM
ELGIN — After finally getting two companions in recent weeks, Po-Key the Lords Park bison passed away Tuesday.
Elgin parks superintendent Jim Bell said Po-Key seemed gimpy and had trouble walking Monday, and a veterinarian was called to give her anti-inflammatory medication.
Monday night, a police officer noticed that Po-Key was on her side. City crews worked to upright the animal using two tractors. But the bison was not able to stand, and the vet decided it was time to put the 21-year-old Po-Key to sleep Tuesday.
On Feb. 28, a two-person crew from Brookfield Zoo delivered two female bison named Becky and Drew. The two bison had been set for delivery in mid-December, but Drew injured a horn, leading to the delay.
Po-Key had been without a penmate since July 2011 when Cahoya — a 26-year-old female — died. Dakota, an 19-year-old male, passed away in December 2009. Pokey was born in 1991.
In December, Joan Daniels, associate curator of mammals at Brookfield Zoo, told The Courier-News that Drew and Becky and are both 13 years old and came to Brookfield from Peoria’s Wildlife Prairie State Park, where they were born.
According to Elgin zookeeper Dwight Armistead, the transfer process went smoothly and the animals were adjusting to each other.
In 2009, facing budget decisions brought on by the recession, the city shut down the farm and petting zoo in Lords Park and pondered finding new homes for the larger animals kept on its grounds.
That spurred the formation of Friends of the Lords Park Zoo, the eventual building of community gardens in the park, and in the last half of 2010 the formation of a task force that met on and off for six months before making myriad suggests for park improvements to the city council in December of that year.
Brookfield Zoo also shared design information and lessons learned to help Elgin volunteers renovate the bison area in spring 2012. The effort involved demolition done by volunteers from the Elgin United Civic Association and the Elgin community, which helped bring down the cost of the project.
In January 2012, the city council created a unique partnership with a citizens group and agreed to pitch in more than $52,000 for the construction of a new fence and modifications to the bison pen at Lords Park.
In turn, according to zoo advocate Laurie-Faith Gibson, the Friends raised $17,000 to give the city for the pen project, and the vendor (Rock Valley Fence of Loves Park) wrote off about $8,000 due to volunteer efforts in April and May to complete the pen. In June, about 20 young men from Lutheran Social Services helped redo the garden areas within the farm zoo area.