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Mystery animal to replace bison
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Brit Spaugh Zoo Director Scott Gregory said he’s gotten approval for the next animal or animals at the zoo, but he isn’t saying just what will take the place of the bison that were removed earlier this month.

"It’s going to be a surprise," Gregory said Tuesday. "Here’s the first clue: We’re going to be building a barn." There will be four stalls in the barn, but that doesn’t mean it will house four animals, he added.

On June 7, the male and female bison in the hoof stock area of the zoo, along with their 6-month-old calf, were shipped to a 30,000-acre preserve in Nebraska. Gregory acknowledged that the bison were a popular exhibit at the zoo, but said they had become too dangerous for their enclosure. The 1,500-pound male had actually damaged the safety fence.

"We have to renovate this entire enclosure," Gregory said after the bison were removed.

"Our first goal is to get the enclosures safe," he said Tuesday. "Regardless of the animals we put out there, a barn was necessary," he added. The zoo is seeking people interested in donating funds for the barn.

Gregory said he’ll be dropping hints about the new animal periodically, and didn’t rule out more bison as a possibility. The hoofed animals are in what is now considered the North American part of the zoo, but Gregory said there are plans to convert that into an African area. (However, any hoofed animal, regardless of where it’s from, would have to be housed in that part of the zoo, he said.)

When the bison were headed out, Gregory commented, "The animal we replace them with has to be pretty impressive." On Tuesday he added, "It’s probably going to be one of the biggest attractions the zoo has ever had."

In other news, Gregory said he has been working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and hopes to acquire a cougar for the zoo. "We’re about 70 percent of the way there," he said of efforts to get approval to receive the animal from an AZA accredited zoo.

As for Great Bend’s own pending accreditation with AZA, Gregory said the application was submitted to the Sedgwick County Zoo a few months ago, and he is waiting to hear back. After Sedgwick County reviews the application, Great Bend can schedule an inspection.