Agnes the bison dies after 19 years at Salisbury Zoo

The Salisbury Zoo has announced the passing of its 19-year-old female American bison, who was euthanized on Thursday.

Known to her keepers as Agnes, she was born on Aug. 15, 2000, at the Salisbury Zoo.

The Salisbury Zoo has been exhibiting this keystone mammal species for more than 50 years and has a long history with American bison conservation.

Within the last few months zookeepers began to notice apparent changes in the bison’s behavior. Zoo keepers and veterinarians attempted to address the symptoms with medication, but within the last month her health declined rapidly. Staff assessed her quality of life and the decision was made to humanely euthanize her.

A post-mortem exam is scheduled through the Maryland Department of Agriculture. The average life expectancy of the North American bison is between 15 and 20 years.

In 2016, the National Bison Legacy Act became law, making the American bison the national mammal of the United States. Bison were plentiful in the early 1800s but by the late 1800s there were only a few hundred left in the United States after unregulated shooting and habitat loss occurred during the settlement of the west.

With the help of the Department of Interior, the American Bison Society and the New York Zoological Society, the number of American Bison rose in the early 1900s. Yellowstone National Park bison population is estimated at 4,900.

The Salisbury Zoo recently welcomed two new baby bison to our family with the addition of Ruby and Opal.

To ensure the upkeep and improvement of their enclosure, and as a means of celebrating the life of Agnes, donations to the Salisbury Zoo may be made in her name. For more information, please visit salisburyzoo.org or email mseemann@salisbury.md.

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