Roaming bison were still on the loose in northeastern Saskatchewan as of press time, but producers in the Tisdale area were drawing up a capture plan.
The animals appeared to have moved away from the Highway 35 area Dec. 18, where they were sighted several times on the weekend of Dec. 11-13. Estimates have placed their numbers as high as 100.
A meeting of producers and bison experts was scheduled for Dec. 19 to plan the safe capture and return of the runaways.
“I’m getting people together and I’ve contacted the Saskatchewan Bison Association for advice about what we should or shouldn’t do,” said local bison producer Lonnie Bulmer, who was organizing the meeting.
There have been reports of the bison wrecking bales and damaging fences on nearby farms, but the biggest concern is the threat they could cause on the highway.
SBA president Les Kroeger said people need to be aware that livestock are on the loose, but bison typically pose minimal danger, particularly at this time of year.
“Unless they’re provoked, they won’t target a vehicle,” he said.
“They won’t come to the road and start charging vehicles.”
Nevertheless, a bison is a large animal and can weigh up to 1,000 kilograms, and warning signs have been posted on Highway 35.
Kroeger said the bison may stay in one herd or they may fragment into smaller groups.
“There are no set rules, but they can cover a lot of ground, maybe (50 kilometres) in one day,” Kroeger said.
Bison are wild animals and semi nomadic, but they might return to the farm they escaped from because they associate it with a steady food supply.
Bison cows have been known to return to the area where their last calf was born.
However, rounding them up will be challenging. Trucks, all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles can be used, but the people involved must know what they’re doing and go slowly. A spooked bison can run 60 km-h.
“The RM’s obligation under the Saskatchewan Stray Animals Act is to provide a location within the municipality that has appropriate enclosures to contain animals that may be at large,” said Wayne Black, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Barrier Valley, where most of the sightings have occurred.
The RM has enclosure facilities at two locations, and two individuals have volunteered to be pound keepers.
One of those facilities is properly equipped to handle bison.
Black said the animals are protected under the Stray Animals Act, which makes it an offence to harm or take possession of them.
“Even though the RM doesn’t have the responsibility to round up these animals, that doesn’t mean we aren’t concerned about the situation and we’re prepared to make our facilities available to work with them,” he said.
“If there’s a logical way we can approach this thing to correct this problem, we’re not averse to participating in this at all.”