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BISON TALES

The Rescue

July 20, 2006

As I have mentioned before, we try to intervene as little as possible when it comes to handling the bison. But there are times when there is just no other option.

This particular day, we were out feeding our cow/calf herd in our native pasture. On the way back to our yard we noticed that one cow was hanging out close to the fence with her calf on the wrong side. I glared at Perry with that look of dread. I knew we would have to try and put that calf back on the right side of the fence with it's mom. Perry said, "You won't have to get out of the truck". Yeah, right.

We went back to the yard and Perry got some tools for taking staples out of the fence. He drove the quad and I drove the half–ton truck out in the middle field, where the calf was getting a bit agitated. I parked the truck 10 or 12 fence posts away from the calf. Perry started taking some staples from the bottom of a fence post. He told me to drive the quad a ways down the field. So I did, and now the calf was in between us. He told me if the cow and some of her buddies started to come towards us, that I was to stop them. Yeah, right.

The calf looked at Perry, and started to head in my direction. I drove the quad in circles and then the calf headed in the other direction towards Perry, but got scared and decided to try and go through the fence to try and get back to it's mom. Bad idea. The page wire is quite narrow – nothing can fit through it, so the calf got it's head stuck and started bellering like crazy. Now the mom and 10 or 12 of her buddies and our bull came charging towards the frantic calf. Perry and I both headed towards her, and abandoned the staple removing idea. We had to get that calf out of the fence. Perry pulled as hard as he could on the 60 lb. calf to free it. Finally we got the head out, but we had to do something with the calf and we had to do it soon. He said we were going to try and pull the fence up from the ground and shove the calf underneath.

From what I can remember, it was the sound that was the most frightening. All the cows and the bull were snorting and stomping in defence of their calf. It's hard to describe how loud it was, but it was definitely ear shattering. All the commotion caused clouds of dust that blinded us. I tried a couple of times to pull up the fence with my left hand, while trying to shove the calf under the fence. After a few attempts we finally got the calf under the fence.

Immediately, the snorting and stomping stopped, and the dust settled.

I got up from my knees, but all of a sudden without any forewarning, I started to vomit. I vomited until there was nothing left in my stomach. Perry was asking me if I was OK, and couldn't figure out why I was so sick. I only had one reply. FEAR.

It was something that came from somewhere deep inside me, and I don't think I've ever experienced fear like that before or since then.

Now we have a simple way of rescuing a calf on the wrong side of the fence, and it doesn't involve me at all. We've decided I'm more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to rescuing a calf. Now I watch safely from the house with a pair of binoculars and usually it's over in about 5 minutes.

Perry takes out 4 or 5 staples and pulls the fence up just a little bit. Then he slowly drives the quad behind the calf, which is looking for that little hole at the bottom of the fence. It's very efficient, and usually the rest of the herd stays pretty calm. There's no commotion, no snorting, no stomping, no dust clouds.

We have learned a lot in the years we have had buffalo, but the power of the herd is something that we never take for granted. They have our total respect.