Pasture improvements readied for S.F. bison

San Francisco’s famous bison will have a few more acres to roam in Golden Gate Park when improvements to their paddock are completed later this month.

Renovations to the facilities in the western portion of the park are 95 percent complete and include an expansion of the paddock area from eight acres to 12, according to the Recreation and Park Department.

The bison herd, now numbered at eight females, is one of the most unique and popular attractions in The City’s enormous and famous green space.

Brought to The City in the late 1800s to save them from extermination, the bison have survived in the park for more than 100 years, escaping the effects of inbreeding in the mid-1980s, thanks in part to two new bulls purchased by Richard Blum, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has mandated that the San Francisco Zoo, which watches over the bisons’ care, improve the perimeter fencing to meet the organization’s current requirements.

Part of the improvement effort was bringing the paddock into compliance, said Recreation and Park Department spokeswoman Rose Dennis.

Started in April, the $1.2 million habitat improvement should be completed by October and includes a new 8-foot chain-link perimeter fence and new electric wire fence.

The facilities received new electrical wiring and water pipes to irrigate and provide water for the animals.

The fencing alignment expands the paddock area and provides more tree coverage for the bison to rest under. The bison handlers will also have safer access to the animals and the public will have better views of the bison, Dennis said.

“People come all the time because it’s an odd place for [bison] to be,” Dennis said.

In the meantime, the herd is “healthy and doing really well” as construction finishes up, the zoo’s Paul Garcia said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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