Our first visit was to the White-Tailed Deer enclosure. The park currently has 4 deer: 1 buck, 1 doe, and a couple of yearling fawns. In the photo below are the yearlings and the buck (if you click to enlarge this picture, you will see that the antlers are just starting to grow on this buck -- he's on the left.)
The doe was quite tame and came right up to the fence for her favorite treat: apples! (My classmate Emma got the honors of breaking up an apple to feed this doe.)
Even when they're in smaller pieces, apples are still difficult for a deer to munch on!
Elk were once a part of the Minnesota prairie landscape too, although I believe they're long gone now except for a small population in the far northwest corner of the state. Oxbow Park also maintains a small herd of elk in their zoo. Three cows......
......and 1 bull elk (who is also just starting his new set of antlers for this year).
Oxbow Park is also the home to a small herd of American Bison. Here's what Stan Tekiela says about them in his Field Guide to Mammals of Minnesota, "A massive animal, hard to confuse with any other." In the photo below is the bull and 1 cow, and from this picture it's difficult to appreciate how huge and majestic these animals really are. Just standing next to the enclosure and listening to them breathe reminded me of standing next to a steam locomotive that's waiting to accelerate down the railroad track. Fortunately these animals seemed really docile. The park naturalist leading our group was quick to point out to our class that the large metal cable and fence seperating us from the bison would "only slow them down" if they actually did decide to charge.
As I was standing there looking at these animals and seeing them losing their winter coat, I was wishing I was a spinner so I could collect that fleece and spin it into some yarn. I've only knitted with buffalo yarn once -- it's quite expensive and I'm sure the logistics of collecting that fleece is one of the reasons why!
There was also one yearling buffalo calf with this herd. What a cutie, don't you think?
Another mammal still present in the rural Minnesota landscape is the American Badger. Oxbow Park's Zollman Zoo also had a badger for us to observe. I think these are really neat animals, but I know a lot of farmers don't like them because of the huge holes and mounds of dirt they leave in the fields. This one wasn't the least bit happy to see all of us humans standing around and staring at it. I think they're quite beautiful, but would definitely want to keep my distance if I ever encountered one in the wild.