SHERIDAN — The bison and elk at Kendrick Park have always attracted visitors, both locals and those from out of town. The animals are mainly self-sufficient but need some assistance to live longer and appeal to interested onlookers.
The City of Sheridan handles most of the care and maintenance of the animals and the 20-acre pasture in which they live. Those responsibilities mainly entail feeding the bison and elk during colder months; providing shelter when inclement weather arrives; irrigating the pasture in hotter months; and working with experts to ensure the animals remain healthy.
City of Sheridan parks superintendent Steve Gage said the parks department feeds grass hay to the animals from Dec. 1 to May 1. The city provides small amounts of vitamins and mineral supplements for the wildlife as well. The rest of the year, the bison and elk graze from the pasture.
During those five winter months, Parks Department employees usually feed the animals every other day at the top part of the enclosure near Highland Avenue and Pioneer Road. Feeding sometimes occurs in the red barn at the base of the pasture hill if the weather is bad. Gage said the bison tend to use the barn more than the elk and that it also provides cover from the summer heat and winter cold.
The parks department irrigates the pasture from May to October to maintain a quality water source. If necessary, the parks department also plows snow in the pasture during winter to make it easier for the animals to walk. The City of Sheridan also works with a veterinarian for annual checkups and any other health needs.
“They’re really not that much work,” Gage said. “We just watch over them and make sure they’re staying healthy and the fences are up. They take care of the rest.”
Bison and elk have lived in the park since the early 1900s and are the last remaining animals from the Sheridan Zoo that existed until the 1970s. The zoo began in 1910 at what was then called Pioneer Park — the name was changed to Kendrick Park in 1936 — and housed all types of exotic creatures, including lions, bears, monkeys, wolves, alligators and coyotes.
Kendrick Park currently holds three bison — two adults and one child — and two female elk. Gage said the numbers decreased a few years ago because of the limited supply of forage in the pasture.
The fauna coexist but choose to stay separated for the most part.
“They don’t bother each other too much,” Gage said. “They live in there together but they do keep their distance.”
The City of Sheridan takes care of the animals on a day-to-day basis but doesn’t have complete control over all of them. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department owns the elk and makes long-term decisions about them.
Christina Schmidt, public information specialist for the Sheridan Region of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said the City of Sheridan has a permit from the WGFD to hold the elk at Kendrick Park for educational and display purposes.
“As for the bison, they are the property of the city and are considered livestock under Wyoming law, so no permit is needed from Game and Fish,” Schmidt wrote in an email. “In this part of the state, bison are considered livestock, while they are classified as wildlife in northwestern Wyoming.”
Gage said he understands the importance of the animals to the city and public and relishes the responsibilities.
“It’s something that we have to do, but we actually enjoy it as well,” Gage said.
The bison and elk tie Sheridan’s past and present together and, along with a little oversight from city employees, attract extra visitors to Kendrick Park.