DALMENY, Sask — In the early morning hours of June 28, 13 strands of thick wire fence were cut, which allowed 52 bison to escape their home pasture.
More than a week later, the motives still mystify owners Mark and Diane Pastoor. The act has caused the death of two bison and much of the herd remains at large. As well, the couple have been having to cope with the stress.
“We assumed wrongly when we woke up and got the phone call at 7:15 that the fence had gone down or something had happened, although we knew that we spent a lot of money putting up a good fence. That’s highly unlikely, but we just didn’t expect that anybody would actually cut the fence,” said Diane.
“When we got there and saw that the fence was cut we knew that it was premeditated and there was somebody out there who has a problem with either us or our animals,” she said.
The Pastoors own 500 acres near Dalmeny, where for four years they have raised a cow-calf bison operation and grown organic grains.
After rallying friends and calling the police, they soon found many of their bison about five kilometres north at a neighbour’s feedlot mingling with the beef steers, but not before stampeding through crops, acreages and fence lines along the way.
Later that day, they managed to coax seven bison back home, but a pregnant cow died of exhaustion and injury.
The Osler, Sask., fire department soon notified them that one of their bulls was on the edge of the small town and posed a public safety risk to residents and property.
“He was the second in command bull, and since he was all by himself, it’s tough to get them home or to rally them up when they’re alone,” she said.
They consulted with the Canadian Bison Association and a veterinarian about how to handle the unpredictable situation.
“We only had two options. One was to tranquilize it and the second was to put it down. We talked to the veterinarian about the option of tranquilizing him, but apparently adrenaline and tranquilizing doesn’t work very well. He says they usually end up dying from the stress of it all anyways. So we had to hire somebody to come and humanely put down our bull,” she said.
“That was gut wrenching. It was a very hard day.”
Another bull remains missing and believed to be north of Dalmeny.
Using his utility terrain vehicle and a bucket of oats, Mark has been able to coax small groups of bison back home; 14 animals have returned so far.
He’s put them in a paddock near the yard where he can feed, water and keep a close eye on them.
Like his bison, Mark said he’s been running on empty with little sleep or food since the incident happened.
“It’s just super sad why someone would even consider that for the animal’s sake — not even my sake,” he said.
And he’s been busy burning up fuel as he (and neighbours) travel the countryside looking for the missing bison.
There have also been moments when he thought about shutting down the operation.
“On Sunday (June 28) I felt I can’t handle doing this anymore. This is the bison rancher’s nightmare, but then I thought I’m not going to let one person ruin my livelihood,” he said.
The Pastoors and their neighbours have been reviewing their trail camera footage and Warman RCMP are investigating the incident.
“I’m guessing that if anybody has a vendetta against a farmer or against us personally and decides to do this, thinking that they’re doing a favour to the animals, they really have no idea the impact of this on the community, on the farms around us and on the health of the bison themselves,” she said.
“We’re devastated. We’re heartbroken. We feel sad for the animals. They’re distressed and we need to get them home.”