A whodunit surrounding the death of a healthy young bison in the Santa Clarita Valley this summer appears certain to remain a mystery.
But Los Angeles County officials this week offered what they called the most likely explanation for the untimely death: an accident caused by the wandering animal itself.
The bison, one of 11 kept to draw visitors to William S. Hart Park in Newhall, probably rambled into a corral and accidentally nudged the gate shut, county auditors concluded in a report to the Board of Supervisors. Without food or water, the trapped animal could have died within two or three days in 100-degree heat, auditors said.
The body was discovered July 27 by a park keeper.
Park officials opted against a medical examination of the 18-month-old male’s carcass, a decision the report criticized. “We could not rule out the possibility of foul play,” auditors wrote.
The audit was ordered by Supervisor Mike Antonovich, an animal lover who displays a homeless pet to be adopted before television cameras at weekly board meetings. Rumors had spread that someone might have killed or sedated the bull.
“The first order of business was to rule out foul play,” said Antonovich’s press aide, Tony Bell. “We want to see better supervision, better management and better care for these animals.”
The report found “substantial deficiencies” in the way park officials handled the death.
But auditors also acknowledged that park staff had taken steps to improve the diet fed to bison, better track the animals and padlock corrals.