RED LODGE — For more than 30 years, the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary has been home to many animals, including bears, wolves and mountain lions, that couldn’t survive on their own in the wild. Most brought to the sanctuary stay and are provided with a forever home.
Such is the case of Speedy, the sanctuary's 19-year-old bison. She was abandoned by her mother as a calf, raised and bottle-fed by humans and brought to Red Lodge as a yearling. For 17 years, Speedy has been the only bison at the sanctuary, but since bison are herd animals, Director Gary Robson thought it was high time that Speedy had a friend.
"Luna actually came from a captive herd," says Robson. "She was born in the Midwest, came out here to be a part of the herd at Hope Ranch. And Hope Ranch has been selling off their bison. And this particular bison was acquired by an individual that did not want to see her become meat...Not that there's anything wrong with that, they are raised for meat....But, Luna was rescued, and the person that rescued her then brought her to us."
As with all new residence at the sanctuary, Luna is in strict 30-day quarantine to make sure no outside diseases are passed to the other animals. But she doesn't seem to mind being closed off very much. Maybe it's because she’s within sight of her new sister Speedy.
"Luna and Speedy are separated by a six-foot corridor, so they can see each other," Robson explains. "At the initial introduction...when Luna came in here, she was very vocal. She was making a lot of sounds. She was exploring everything and Speedy just stood there at the fence like, 'What on earth is that thing?'"
Though keeping bison is a joy for Robson and his staff, it does come with a big price tag. These animals cost the sanctuary thousands of dollars each year in food and basic medical care alone. And while their organization has amazing sponsors and folks who donate regularly, Robson says they are trying to raise money for new handling equipment, fences and a scale specifically for the Bison.
All in all, Robson expects Luna will be a great addition to the sanctuary and a good partner for Speedy.
"One of the reasons that we're so excited to have Luna here at the sanctuary is that bison are one of the most iconic animals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the ecosystem that gives the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary its name. Speedy has been one of our most popular residents here with visitors, and I'm sure Luna is going to be just as popular."
Right now, The Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary is closed to the public due to the pandemic, but if you would like more information or to donate, log onto https://www.yellowstonewildlifesanctuary.org/