Beloit Daily News
Saturday - October 2, 1999

White buffalo recovers after surgery to fix toe

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) _ Miracle, a buffalo said to fulfill an American Indian prophecy when it was born white, has made it through toe surgery, but it will be about six months until the 700-pound animal is fully recovered, a veterinarian said.

The 5-year-old bison, whose coat has turned light brown, has been hobbling around for the past few weeks because of an infection in one of her toes. An injury had caused a bone chip and created an abscess in the remaining bone.

The infection could have spread to the animal's leg if left untreated, so Miracle's owners, Val and Dave Heider, and veterinarians from Evansville Veterinary Service, decided to go ahead with Thursday's operation.

Usually, doctors simply remove the infected toe. But in Miracle's case, the infected toe was the outside toe, which bears most of a bison's weight in the rear. Removing that toe likely would have caused some difficulty walking for Miracle.

Doctors decided instead to remove the infected bone, but leave the toe and hoof intact. That meant Miracle had to be completely sedated for the surgery, which worried the Heiders even more than the operation.

That is because bison historically do not do well with anesthesia, said Dr. Kenneth Reese.

Miracle weighs about 700 pounds and when animals that size lie down for too long, fluid can fill their lungs and kill them. The idea is to sedate the animal, anesthetize it, perform the procedure and wake the animal as quickly as possible, Reese said.

Reese and Heider expect Miracle to make a full recovery. The bandage on Miracle's foot will get changed every few days and it will take about six months for the foot to completely heal.

``We're looking at keeping this buffalo around until she dies of old age,'' Reese said.

American Indians have cited a legend that says a buffalo born white will change color four times before a prophecy signaling unification of the races is fulfilled.

Miracle has turned brown, black and yellow over the years and currently is blonde and brown. According to American Indian prophecy, the buffalo will turn white again when there is world peace.
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