WAHPETON, N.D. — A zoo in North Dakota has acquired a new animal that’s considered spiritually significant in several Native American religions.

The Chahinkapa Zoo in Wahpeton received a white bison named Ska on Sept. 10 from a ranch in Selfridge, the Wahpeton Daily News reported.

“We had done animal exchanges with Mr. Fischer, a gentleman who has a reputable heart,” said Kathy Diekman, zoo director. “We’re very fortunate to have Ska.”

Diekman said she is proud and pleased the zoo can continue to spread North Dakota’s rich heritage by celebrating the bison.

“There’s great education opportunities, great enrichment opportunities,” Diekman said. “Everything just seems to be a great fit.”

The male yearling bison’s name comes from the Native American word for white.

Tom Schmaltz, zoo curator, said Ska is unique because he’s the product of recessive genes. White bison are rare, but Ska isn’t considered a true albino because he doesn’t have pink eyes.

“Albino bison have a lot of health issues,” Diekman continued. “We just think Ska is absolutely gorgeous.”

Ska, weighing between 600 and 700 pounds, shares zoo space with three other bison. Schmaltz said they get along great because bison are herd animals and like living together.

The herd also includes Corso, which has served as the mascot of the North Dakota State University football team.

“Right now Corso is dominant because he’s larger,” said Schmaltz. “Once the girls get older, one of them will lead the herd.”


Information from: Wahpeton Daily News, http://www.wahpetondailynews.com