More bison might be sent to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park 

The herd of five bison that lives in Golden Gate Park — The City’s living reminders of the Wild Wild West — could swell to as many as 12 by fall.

Richard Blum — who donated the ancestors of the current herd in 1984 as a gift to his wife, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who was mayor then — is offering the Recreation and Park Department $50,000 to add more. His gift would pay to upgrade the paddock west of Spreckels Lake on John F. Kennedy Drive to federal standards before The City buys as many as seven bison.

Department employees say building a chute to an isolated corral would enable animal doctors to perform veterinary services without first having to tranquilize the animals, which is what the Department of Agriculture requires.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s office has secured $10,000 to help buy the bison from a ranch she visited in Tehama County.

Ma said a group of high school interns pleaded the case for the funds to the Theodore Rosenberg Charitable Foundation after a visit to the park in 2008, and the group secured the money.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Rosenberg passed away in 2010 and was unable to see the result of his important contribution come to fruition,” she said.

In recent years, the park’s pasture and 1899-era paddock got a $1.2 million upgrade that fixed the irrigation system and expanded the exhibit from 7 to 12 acres.

The park’s five female bison, which are herbivores, weigh up to 3,000 pounds each and range in age between their late teens and late 20s. Bison usually live until their late 20s.

The care of the bison is split between zookeepers who feed them their hay and fresh produce and Rec and Park gardeners who maintain their pasture. Zoo employees would pick the newest additions, most likely young bison unlikely to try to establish dominance.

“We’re very grateful to Dick Blum, Sen. Feinstein and Assemblywoman Ma for helping us replenish the herd ... [which is] one of Golden Gate Park’s iconic features,” Rec and Park chief Phil Ginsburg said.

However, some bison lovers oppose an increase in the park population. Philip Carelton, who voluntarily cleared the weeds from the animal’s pasture for 10 years, said more than eight in that space is too many.

“There’s just two large pastures and it’s totally overgrazed,” Carelton said. “It’s just a total disaster out there.”

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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Kamala Kelkar

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