Home News Local News MERA remains closed over the weekend
MERA remains closed over the weekend
Union County officials are hopeful that a herd of bison roaming near the Mt. Emily Recreation Area will stay put on its home range.
Union County opted to close MERA Aug. 14 after reports that the herd got loose from Gary Price’s ranch on Mount Glen Road. The closure includes non-motorized trails and trailheads at Owsley Canyon and Upper and Lower Igo Lane. The Foxhill Trailhead is open for motorized use only.
Officials have spent the past week and a half trying to corral the animals, a task they say is not an easy one. Unlike cattle, bison are independent and difficult to herd, Commissioner Steve McClure said.
McClure told his fellow commissioners at their Wednesday morning meeting that the buffalo have been contained and gotten back out several times because of fencing issues.
To mend the problem, he said he spent Tuesday “calling every buffalo expert in the state of Oregon I could get a hold of.”
The best advice he could find was to feed the bison on their home range. McClure suggested that Union County Public Works officials put out mineral blocks.
MERA Coordinator Sean Chambers said that strategy appears to have worked.
“They went right to (the mineral blocks),” Chambers said. “The fence is back up to standard and hopefully they respect that.”
Officials say the electric fence was in disrepair, likely due to elk coming down into the valley.
Public Works Director Doug Wright said the bison have been located on that ranch for years.
“We’ve never had problems,” Wright said. However, “like cattle, any time they find an escape route they get out.”
Wright said the closure of MERA is a precaution. The animals may not actually be within MERA, but they could be.
Bison are not domesticated animals and are known to be territorial and can be unfriendly toward dogs. Officials say bison can also be especially protective of calves. MERA will remain closed through the weekend and until officials are convinced the bison are properly contained on the ranch.
The county passed an ordinance in 2011 that gives the sheriff the authority to cite landowners who do not maintain proper fencing for bison and have animals roaming at large.
McClure said Wednesday that there is some dispute over the ownership of this herd. He said that should be resolved in court Friday.
“We can recoup our expenses in what we’re doing here to enforce the ordinance,” McClure said. “The sheriff is probably going to cite both parties sometime.”