Whitehorse Daily Star: Preserve welcomes bison

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After tragic luck with newborn animals over the past eight months, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve has welcomed two new bison.

By Tim Gilck on May 17, 2022

After tragic luck with newborn animals over the past eight months, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve has welcomed two new bison.

The bison calves were born on April 29 and May 6, Jake Paleczny, the reserve’s executive director, said last week.

Both appear to be healthy and doing well, he said.

Bison are the most regular species on the reserve to breed, which they normally do every year, he explained.

Unlike many other zoological facilities, he said the animals in the reserve are kept as wild as possible, Paleczny explained.

They are not handled beyond the minimum necessary to ensure their health, he said, so they are never checked for pregnancies.

That’s why reserve staff can never say for sure that bison — and other large animals where males and females are allowed to mix — are pregnant.

He said staff may be expecting one or two more bison births.

They are also hoping for a few caribou births, but will likely have to wait until June for the females to give birth.

We are still expecting at least one more calf, but we are now at the end of their calving season.

A calf born about two months ago died of birth defects about a week after birth, Paleczny said.

Although unfortunate, this is not an unusual scenario, although such occurrences are always a bit traumatic for the staff.

The situation with the reserve’s lynx collection is somewhat different.

After the birth of three kittens last June, a female was found dead in early November from possible head injuries.

She had charmed visitors to the reserve during the establishment’s Halloween event, as the daring youngster repeatedly swallowed special meat treats provided by the staff.

About eight weeks later, a second kitten was also found dead of unknown causes.

The third kitten, a male, continued to thrive after being extensively rehabilitated over the summer for a serious leg injury.

Paleczny said the two deceased kittens were subjected to numerous tests and examinations. The results were inconclusive, especially for the second kitten.

It was upsetting and frustrating for staff, he said, who wonder what went wrong.

It’s an unusual scenario, Paleczny said, since the reserve has allowed the lynx to breed before without such incidents.

Better news for the facility, on Saturday it welcomed the release of a rehabilitated northern hawk owl.

The bird had been in care since March, when it was found in Riverdale in poor condition.

It is thought that heavy snowfall last winter could have hampered the bird’s hunt, leaving it in an emaciated state.

It is a rare bird that the reserve works with, Paleczny added.

The most common birds of prey in rehabilitation are bald eagles.

Among the owls, the reserve more often sees small species, such as the Boreal Owl. Other species, such as short ears, were also treated.

Northern Hawk Owls are fairly common in the territory, but are less regular visitors to the rehabilitation center.

Collisions with vehicles are one of the most common causes of injury to Yukon owls, Paleczny said.

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