Bison removed from MERA, area reopened

By Kelly Ducote / The Observer October 16, 2013 10:40 am

Union County officials were relieved to announce Tuesday that the Mt. Emily Recreation Area is open after being closed for two months due to roaming bison in the area.

County officials closed MERA Aug. 14 amid public safety concerns that roaming bison could wander into the recreation area.

“They are permanently removed from the area,” said Sean Chambers, MERA and Union County parks coordinator. Chambers said he has taken down closure signs at the trailheads and replaced them with notifications that the animals no longer pose a public safety threat.

“It’s definitely nice to have the situation resolved,” said Chambers, who spent time trying to corral bison early in the ordeal and later helped coordinate with the new owner. “Everybody involved kind of had that sensation of relief.”

Bison rancher Tom Epler became the new owner of the herd once they were loaded onto trailers, though his court order was changed to allow him to harvest remaining animals.

“We had to use the mobile (slaughter) unit,” he said. “They were just too far away and too wild.”

About eight animals remained last week. The other two dozen animals were hauled away earlier.

Epler said meat from the eight animals is salvageable and usable. 

Union County Commissioner Steve McClure said he is “elated” the animals are no longer wandering near MERA.

“That’s been a long struggle,” he said. “I’m thinking the county’s probably going to review our buffalo ordinance.”