By Friday afternoon, Phelps County Sheriff Gene Samuelson reports that they appear to be having some success in capturing Bison that had escaped a Phelps County feedlot late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. About 125 head had escaped a feedlot pen at Valley View Feeders, inc of Overton. The escape was discovered when a semi struck at least two Bison on Highway 23 just west of Loomis shortly after 5:00am Wednesday.
Sheriff Samuelson said he believes about 100 head will be returned to the feedlot by Friday evening, including 25 that were captured Friday afternoon. He says they continue to get reports of a few Bison mixed with cattle in pastures and they have determined to let them remain in the pastures for a day or two to let them calm down. Earlier he reported that small groups were along either side of Highway 23 between Bertrand and Loomis so Samuelson asks that citizens continue to use caution if they travel through the area this week. Deputies will also be watching as well.
Sheriff Samuelson believes there are about 10 head in the pastures. There were five confirmed dead in traffic accidents and one was reportedly shot dead by a landowner. Others suffered injuries from running and jumping. Sheriff Samuelson offered his thanks to landowners and all who have assisted in the roundup.
A representative of Valley View Feeders spoke with KRVN News Friday morning. They said they feed the Bison in their feedlot for the Bison’s owner and the Bison’s owner eventually returns to pick them up. The process for feeding out Bison is similar to cattle in that they are checked for health each day and fed.
The representative said it’s hard to determine how the Bison escaped as it happened in the middle of the night when no one was directly around them. It appears the Bison broke the gate as the gate was found flat on the ground. But, they add that Bison usually don’t break a fence unless they are startled by something. One other tendency is that Bison usually stays in the area that they are familiar with which has led to speculation on whether someone pushed them to go further.
The representative said media and people coming out to watch and follow the Bison kept pushing them further away and into fields. The Bison spreading out into smaller groups made it harder getting them back.
Handling Bison is different than cattle. The representative says cattle are more calm and easier to round up with cowboys and horses. Bison don’t like a lot of noise and it sort of scares and pushes them more. So you have be more calm and quiet with them as they get angry a lot faster than cattle.
Bison also tends to follow the wind, which may explain them moving in a southerly direction from the feedlot to south of Loomis, Bertrand and Elwood. Some were located as far away as Harlan County and the Republican River.
Valley View Feeders is a family operation and the representative acknowledges the situation has been very stressful on all of them and their staff. They ask that people stay back from the Bison and to keep reporting if they are spotted.