Bison starting to be relocated from area

Written by Kelly Ducote, The Observer September 13, 2013 12:56 pm

Bison to be slaughtered due to lack of vaccinations 

Three bison in a herd of 32 have been removed from property on Mount Glen Road.

The herd of roaming bison prompted Union County officials to close the Mt. Emily Recreation Area over safety concerns Aug. 14. 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.

Tom Epler, who becomes the new owner of the bison once they are loaded onto a trailer, said three head were caught and loaded up Wednesday.

The bison are being taken to a ranch in Nyssa where Epler keeps his meat animals.

“They are back in the pasture,” Epler said of the other animals. “We’ve got fence set up.”

Epler, who has a bison ranch on the west side of the state, said due to the animals lacking vaccinations for brucellosis and tuberculosis, he is limited with what he can do with them. They cannot be placed in established herds, just in case they have one of the diseases. Adults will be slaughtered, he said, because they are much more difficult to vaccinate.

“Calves can run through vaccination,” he said. “We’re actually going to be trading those with other breeders.”

Epler said the lack of vaccinations in the cows and bulls does not affect the meat.

“We can still use them for meat. That’ll be no problem,” he said.

Epler said he hired some local folks to watch the pen and that local support has been nice.

“Without their help it would have been impossible for me to keep coming back and forth,” he said. “The people of La Grande have been very helpful.”

Epler said they are trying to move the animals as quickly as possible.

However, “It’s not a fast process,” he said. “Nothing’s fast with moving buffalo.”

Sean Chambers, MERA coordinator, said MERA will re-open immediately once the bison are moved.

Chambers called the removal of three animals this week progress.

“Removing the lead bulls and cows may decrease their confidence and curiousness to roam and stay in pasture until they are completely removed,” he said.

Chambers said if the county becomes confident the bison will stay in their pasture before being moved to Nyssa, they may consider re-opening MERA then.