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Press Release

Henry Vilas Zoo Statement on Recent Animal Losses

June 30, 2022

Working at a zoo is a lifelong dream for most of the people who get in to this profession. We do this work because we love animals. We spend years in school to learn more about them, we gain experience through volunteering or interning, we compete for jobs with reputable organizations, and we spend our careers continually striving to learn more about the animals in our care. We go to work in heat waves, thunderstorms, and polar vortexes all because we love animals. And we develop strong bonds with the animals in our care. Our animals need us every single day of the year and because of them, we don’t mind working holidays, or weekends, or evenings. We show up every day because we love what we do. And while we know that life and death are part of the job, it never gets any easier when we lose someone close to us.

It is especially hard when an animal who has been part of our lives for so long is no longer here. In the last month, we have lost three of our large mammals. One male Bactrian camel, Boog, and two bison, male Beefcake, and female Mama Cow. All three of these animals were geriatric and receiving daily welfare checks from our keeper staff and veterinarians. Our partnership with the UW School of Veterinary Medicine gives us access to cutting edge resources, but there is no cure for many age-related aliments. Our animal care team grapples with these decisions every day and our goal is always to ensure that an animal’s last day isn’t their worst day.

Boog was born here at Henry Vilas Zoo in 2002. Both Beefcake and Mama Cow were 24 at the time of their deaths, an incredible feat in the bison world. Beefcake and Mama Cow had been together here at Henry Vilas Zoo for over 20 years and they had developed a very close bond. They were rarely more than a few yards apart and often seen by our guests napping side by side.

To say the last month has been tough for all of us is an understatement but the support of our amazing community has made these losses more bearable. We would like to thank everyone who sent cards, left messages, or have spoken to us in person while visiting the Zoo. Thank you for understanding that our goal is always to prioritize animal welfare, even when that means making the tough, heartbreaking decisions that we know are the right call.

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