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Major donation helps effort to preserve rare albino bison in Jamestown

JAMESTOWN, N.D.-The effort to preserve and display a rare albino bison at the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown has received a boost thanks to a sizeable donation.Dave and JoAnn Vining, owners of Vining Oil in Jamestown, donated $30,000 toward...

The albino bison White Cloud and her calf, Dakota Miracle, are seen in the pasture of the National Buffalo Museum in 2007. White Cloud died Nov. 14 at the Shirek Buffalo Ranch near Michigan, N.D., and Dave and JoAnn Vining, owners of Vining Oil in Jamestown, donated $30,000 toward the $50,000 goal of preserving the albino bison. File photo / John M. Steiner
The albino bison White Cloud and her calf, Dakota Miracle, are seen in the pasture of the National Buffalo Museum in 2007. White Cloud died Nov. 14 at the Shirek Buffalo Ranch near Michigan, N.D., and Dave and JoAnn Vining, owners of Vining Oil in Jamestown, donated $30,000 toward the $50,000 goal of preserving the albino bison. File photo / John M. Steiner
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JAMESTOWN, N.D.-The effort to preserve and display a rare albino bison at the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown has received a boost thanks to a sizeable donation.

Dave and JoAnn Vining, owners of Vining Oil in Jamestown, donated $30,000 toward the $50,000 goal of preserving White Cloud, an albino bison that died Nov. 14 at the Shirek Buffalo Ranch near Michigan, N.D. White Cloud was 19 years old and spent most of her life with the herd at the National Buffalo Museum.

"We just thought the white buffalo is very rare and it's a historical treasure that we want to help preserve," said JoAnn Vining. "White Cloud has been very important for Jamestown and she has brought a lot of business and tourism to our area."

Ilana Xinos, executive director of the National Buffalo Museum, said the National Buffalo Museum's Board of Directors decided to have White Cloud mounted and displayed at the museum. The display will offer visitors a more historical, cultural and scientific significance of albino bison, she said.

"The Vinings' gift for White Cloud's mount and display case allows the museum to start the project," Xinos said. "This project would not be possible without the Vinings' generosity."

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White Cloud will be displayed in a humidity-controlled enclosure that will be placed in the Select Inn room where the tipi is located, she said. The display will also tell the history of white bison, along with White Cloud's story and her importance to Native American culture, to the museum and community.

From a scientific point of view, true white bison are exceedingly rare, said James Derr, a professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine who has performed genetic testing on the museum's herd, in a press release.

"A permanent display of this exceptional animal provides an outstanding opportunity for scientific and cultural education and for increasing awareness and understanding of animal biodiversity," Derr said.

Geoff Woodcox, assistant curator of collections at the State Historical Society of North Dakota in Bismarck, consulted on the mounting and display of White Cloud, Xinos said.

"Geoff recommended the type of enclosure to best preserve the mount based on our museum's current environment," she said.

White Cloud's passing and her preservation project came at a time when the museum was already committed to other projects to improve and grow, Xinos said.

Work is underway on a lobby redesign with an adjacent 25-seat theater in an existing 12-by-26-foot semi-enclosed space.

The museum averages 21,000 to 25,000 visitors per year, Xinos said, and the theater will be able to screen a 16-minute documentary of bison as an optional entry piece to enhance the experience, she said.

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The museum has raised $64,000 of the $100,000 film and theater project goal, Xinos said. Sponsorships of $250 or more will be listed on a donor wall located in the completed theater, and sponsorships of $1,000 or more will be listed on the wall and in the film credits, she said.

"Both the museum orientation film and the theater construction are on track to be completed for a summer 2017 launch," Xinos said. "Each is about 60 percent complete."

National Buffalo Museum board member Paul Olson, who is also vice president for academic affairs and dean of the University of Jamestown, said the theater project, along with the new White Cloud display, will provide a new educational experience for visitors to the museum.

"They will help tell White Cloud's story, of course, but will also educate the public on the cultural, scientific and economic importance of buffalo, and particularly white buffalo," Olson said.

For more information or to donate, contact the National Buffalo Museum at 252-8648 or at director@buffalomuseum.com .

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