Fiona Ma for State Assembly

Buffalo from Tehama County now dwell in San Francisco

When Corning bison rancher Garen Wimer got back from San Francisco this week, he left a bit of Tehama County behind.

"Seven little heifers," he said Tuesday. Their new home is the Golden Gate Park Buffalo Paddock, where they'll be on display for all to see.

The 8-month-old creatures were recruited through the efforts of Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, whose staff has been working with Wimer and Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams to acquire them. Wimer's animals join a group of three remaining in the park, descendants of animals given in 1984 to then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein by her husband as a birthday present.

"Literally, this is my backyard," said Bob Twomey, Ma's chief of staff, who grew up less than a mile from the site. "This is just so awesome I can't tell you."

The effort dates to 2008, in the wake of a report exploring how the herd might be expanded. Interns from Ma's office took note, ultimately securing funds from the Theodore Rosenberg Charitable Foundation to purchase the animals.

"They were really the driving force in motivating people to make all this happen," Twomey said of the interns. Ma spoke with Williams, who brought Wimer into the picture.

"It's been kind of a hair-pulling experience," Williams said, describing the various hurdles that had to be cleared over the last couple years. Describing the supervisor and rancher as "the epitome of true gentlemen," Twomey hailed the deal as a good example of rural and urban legislators working together.

Wimer quietly delivered his buffalo Monday, deliberately without fanfare to avoid spooking them with crowds and cameras. Still, they had an audience.

"Just the general public who knew they were coming were lined up on the road," said Wimer, who owns Great American Buffalo Co. "The people down there were very excited."

Although Wimer couldn't wait to get out of the city, he's happy with the girls' new home.

"I was amazed," he said. "They have a beautiful spot for them. It's really set up nice."

A public event heralding their arrival will be held, but it hasn't been scheduled yet.

"We wanted to ensure the bison were safe and happy first," Twomey said. The paddock is overseen by the San Francisco Zoo and Recreation and Parks department.

Bison usually live about three decades, said the 65-year-old Wimer.

"They're gonna outlive me there," he said. "I'll be dead and gone long before they are."

Wimer sold six bison for $1,200 apiece and donated the seventh, he said. He's proud of what they represent.

"For the next 30 years they'll be associated with Tehama," Wimer said.

Moreover, he's pleased with how quickly the animals adapted.

"It made me feel real good," Wimer said. "They just kind of stepped out of the trailer and looked around. They're going to have a good life, those buffalo."