Story at a glance

  • The two remaining musk oxen at the Minnesota Zoo were euthanized in late April due to fears that the warming state could negatively affect the last days of the elderly animals.
  • The facility said in its announcement that 65 musk ox calves were born at the zoo since 1980.
  • Over the past 10 years, keepers began noticing changes, saying it “seems even Minnesota has now become too far south for this species to thrive.”

The two remaining musk oxen at the Minnesota Zoo were euthanized in late April due to fears that the warming state could negatively affect the last days of the elderly animals.  

The Zoo announced on its website May 13 that the pair had shown signs of “progressive age-related health issues,” which became worse as the weather warmed this spring. 

The facility said in its announcement that 65 musk ox calves were born at the zoo since 1980. But over the past 10 years, keepers began noticing changes, saying it “seems even Minnesota has now become too far south for this species to thrive.” 


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“We saw firsthand just how much the seasons and temperature and humidity played a role in how they thrived or not,” said Zookeeper Cindy Bjork-Groebner.

“It was very weather dependent with them,” she added. “You could tell they were thriving when the temperatures were colder and then the minute the heat and humidity hit, that’s when I really started watching and could notice changes.”

The zoo stopped breeding musk oxen, which are native to the arctic tundra, around 10 years ago, and the herd became progressively smaller until only the elderly pair of females remained. A decision to euthanize the oxen was made in late April. 

“First and foremost, the keepers know these animals more than they know some of their family members,” said Taylor Yaw, manager of the Zoo’s Animal Health department. “They are there each and every day and pick up on some of the smaller clinical signs that may indicate something may be going on.”

“It’s a long conversation between veterinarians, curators, and Zoo leadership,” Yaw added. “We have a responsibility to these animals. When it comes to a point that we can’t manage clinical health issues, this is the most humane choice we can make.”


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Published on May 18, 2021