“White Cloud came to us this way when she was brought in to Jamestown 19 years ago when she was brought in from Michigan North Dakota with the Shirek family. We picked her up and had a parade through town,” says Arnie Becker,White Cloud the albino buffalo’s former caretaker, “we went up and unloaded her in the pasture. That was back in ‘96 and here we are today having a homecoming for White Cloud as a full mount and placed in a museum. So we’re doing the same thing--having a homecoming.”
Becker and fellow National Buffalo Museum board members,a few photographers and videographers stood visiting on the fourier of the Jamestown CIvic Center standing in front of a fleet of glistening new white vehicles. The vehicles provided by Don Wilhelm and RM Stoudt, two local dealerships lined the driveway of the civic center, among the vehicles was a white pickup with an enclosed trailer, inside the mount of White Cloud the sacred albino bison and icon of the drift prairie.
White cloud was to be transported to the National Buffalo Museum. The pickup was led by a police escort and the white vehicles formed a motorcade. The affair was short notice but a number of onlookers watched and waved as the vehicles drove through town enroute to the museum.
Searle Swedlund director of Jamestown tourism said, “White Cloud is one of the strongest pieces of Jamestown’s identity and connection. We’ve gotten millions of visitors in the near 20 years she’s been here.” In fact, Jamestown has held “White Cloud Days” in the beginning of July every summer since she arrived there in 1996. White Cloud Days will take place on July 8 and 9 this year, the first without White Cloud.
The life expectancy of captive bison is 20-25 years on average. Due to her being an albino White Cloud’s life expectancy was uncertain. Summer heat was hard on her due to her inability to control her body temperature.
She passed away on November 16 2016, of old age at Shirek Buffalo Ranch in Michigan North Dakota. She was returned to Michigan, where she was born on May 21 of that year. During her life she birthed 11 calves--one of which is also white named Dakota Miracle.
In order to pay proper tribute to White Cloud, Jamestown based taxidermist Monte Hoggarth let no detail go unnoticed on her. Great care was taken replicating the pink pigment in her skin and a photo reference was used to find the closest match for her albino eyes.
Acquiring the proper frame for the small bison cow was a challenge,so was maintaining the integrity of her fur, “I was more worried about the hair itself--she was always kind of dirty out in the pasture, so it was a tough decision on whether to bleach her,” said Hoggarth, “We elected not to just because the bleach is kind of a harsh chemical on the hair-and her hair is really soft. She’s got a bit of a yellow tint to her, but that’s just the way she was in nature.”
$30,000 of the $50,000 exhibit was donated by David and Joann Vining. “We’re going to have her behind a partial glass partition so you can have a full view of her but not be able to touch her. One of the top priorities for any museum is to preserve.” said National Buffalo Museum Director Ilana Xinos, “We want to preserve White Cloud for many generations.”
by Sabrina Hornung
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