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Baby Bison in San Francisco Dead After Toy Breed Dog Gets into Paddock

A bison calf in San Francisco's iconic bison paddock in Golden Gate Park died hours after being chased by a toy-breed dog that apparently burrowed...

Maria Goodavage  |  Jan 6th 2012


A bison calf in San Francisco’s iconic bison paddock in Golden Gate Park died hours after being chased by a toy-breed dog that apparently burrowed under the fencing, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The bison suffered three broken ribs and extensive bruising on her chest wall and sternum and had blood in the left chest cavity. Veterinarians say the calf died from injuries from blunt trauma, likely caused by running into fence posts or by other spooked herd members running into her.

The 6-month-old bison had arrived with six other female calves in November to add some youth to the aging bison herd who call several acres of the western end of this park home. (Hmm, I am looking up information on bison to get more background, and I read on site after site that they’re normally weaned when they’re between 6 and 8 months. Some sites even say 8 to 12 months. But these bison came in when they were maybe 4 and a half months. Seems a bit young to be plucked from their moms!)

The dog’s handler, who may be a professional dog walker, was walking five dogs, all off-leash, when the incident occurred. S/he (no ID yet) was cited for animal disturbance and failure to use a leash in a designated on-leash area.

This sad story is pretty personal for me. I live just a few blocks from the bison paddock, and I sometimes like to walk Jake around the paddock so I can see the bison and pretend, just for a few moments, that I’m on a prairie somewhere in the days when buffalo roamed. Jake is actually married to a bison; yes, it’s true, but I’ll save that story for another time. But nuptials or not, Jake stays on leash when we’re near the paddock. Even though it looks as though the fencing is very well secured into the ground — and there is double fencing around pretty much the entire field — I would not take any chances.

I read about this incident when Dogster’s associate editor, Vicky, and my husband sent me an article from the San Francisco Chronicle at the same time yesterday afternoon. I watched the Chronicle site as the numbers of comments grew to a few hundred within hours.

The story has predictably sparked outrage about having dogs off leash in an area where they’re supposed to be leashed (a large, if dusty fenced dog park is within 50 feet of the back part of the paddock). People are also lashing out against people with dogs, with readers commenting that they are “sick and tired of these self-entitled dog owners.” But most surprising are the attacks on people who have dogs in urban areas. Several comments derided those of us who have dogs in the city, or pretty much anywhere but rural areas.

If you want to talk about any of these things — the poor bison, the dogs being off leash (and five of them, to boot), off-leash dogs in general, or dogs in urban areas — please leave a comment. I’d love to see where Dogster readers stand on these topics.

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