One of the biggest animal stories in Pennsylvania in 2011 was the tragedy in September that befell the two beloved bison at Zoo America in HersheyPark.
The bison, 15-year-old Esther and 13-year-old Ryan, were housed in a low-lying area on the zoo property, and got caught in the swift-moving floodwaters of Swatara Creek (shown above) during Tropical Storm Lee.
One bison drowned and the other - trapped and in danger of drowning - was shot by a zoo keeper.
The bison deaths touched off a big debate among animal lovers on the Internet - some siding with the zoo's handling of the incident and others excoriating the zoo for its failure to protect the animals.
In the final analysis. the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Association of Zoos and Aquariums - both of which inspect zoos - cleared the zoo of any wrongdoing, saying it had taken the proper response given the magnitude of the disaster.
The AZA wrote that it believed the staff "did the best job possible under circumstances that were extreme, and that you all performed admirably in what was both a physically and emotionally difficult situation."
A spoksewoman told me that ZooAmerica has not replaced the bison and has not decided if it will.
"We do know for certain that if bison return to that exhibit area, the space would be changed," said spokeswoman Mindy Bianca. "Now that we have a new high-water mark, we'd be taking that into consideration before returning animals to the exhibit.
Elsewhere in the state, storm-related flooding caused the deaths of tens of thousands of pheasants on two low-lying game farms operated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Many birds were swept away by the streams, while others got caught in netting and drowned.
The Game Commission said last month it would relocate its pheasant stock to higher ground.
(Photo: ZooAmerica flooding on Sept. 8/Patriot News)