Jun 21, 2022 - News

This is what happens after Maymont's animals die

Two bison standing in a field at Maymont
Two bison at Maymont. Photo courtesy of Maymont

Question: Reader Alex P. asks what Maymont does with the remains of animals when they pass, like that buffalo that died in April.

I learned a lot in the process of chasing this down, including that the animal in question was a bison, not a buffalo, and her name was Snoopy.

Fun fact: Maymont's lead animal keeper, Gavin McGrath, tells me there are no buffalo in North America, only bison, which used to roam freely in Virginia once upon a historical time.

Back to Snoopy: McGrath says she came to Maymont from the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk. Snoopy lived at Maymont for 19 years before she died from old age just shy of her 21st birthday.

What happened next: When any animal dies at Maymont, they go to a vet for a necropsy to "understand the exact cause of death" and to see if Maymont needs to make any changes to animal care, spokesperson Melissa Abernathy told Axios.

  • Small animals go to Wellesley Animal Hospital in Richmond, and large ones go to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services laboratory in Harrisonburg.
  • After the necropsy, the vets cremate the remains — and in some cases, Maymont staff members receive some ashes as a keepsake, especially if they were close to the particular animal.
  • Some staffers even keep clay mold footprints of the animals, which are taken before they're cremated, on their desks.

Also: When Maymont knows an animal has to be euthanized, the staff plans a special day for the creature, filled with their favorite foods and activities, McGrath, the animal keeper, told me.

Please, send us your burning questions about the Richmond area. Email [email protected]

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