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They want a home where the bison don’t roam

Brief by Central Staff

Livestock – May 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

The song says “Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam,” but that isn’t how people feel at the Hartsel Springs Ranch subdivision in South Park. They’d prefer that a neighbor’s bison herd stayed on his property, rather than breaking through fences.

The buffalo herd is owned by American Bison Corp., and animals have occasionally strayed during the past six years. But since November, 150 to 200 critters might be seen wandering around the subdivision on a given day, according to Carl Bishop, president of the homeowners’ association.

Bishop’s group has written to American Bison, asking that the herd be removed, and on March 18 sent a letter to the Park County Commissioners, asking them to take action.

It isn’t the buffalo per se, according to Bishop. The bison are breaching the fence for the forage and water they need. “They’re just trying to survive. It’s a problem with management.”

The homeowners have two major worries. One is that someone could get hurt by wandering buffalo, and the other is that “Bison roaming throughout the area will discourage potential [real-estate] buyers.”

The wandering buffalo are also causing problems for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, which has conservation easements in the area. They have good fences, according to the DOW, but even stout fences won’t keep the hungry buffalo out, and the consequent intensive grazing reduces the wildlife habitat that the easements are supposed to provide.

Under Colorado’s open-range laws, a landowner is supposed to build a fence to keep livestock out (rather than require the stockman to build a fence to keep his livestock in). But bison aren’t considered livestock under this law, so it’s their owner’s responsibility to fence them in — or face fines of $68 per animal per day, if the Division of Wildlife decides to start writing trespass tickets.

In March, Bishop, the homeowner’s association president, complained to County Commissioners, “We do not have this problem from our neighboring bison ranchers to our east, as they adequately feed and water their herds.” But a Colorado Department of Agriculture investigator subsequently found that American Bison Company animals showed no signs of neglect or abuse. And Richard Grumet, owner of the company, claims that the problems stem from vandalism. He’s reported cut fences and electric wires, open gates and damaged property and presented numerous photographs of damage to the Park County Sheriff’s Department.

At press time an investigation was underway. But in the meantime, American Bison Company animals were being moved to other pastures, and the Fairplay Flume has been following the controversy closely. For those who want to know more, Staff Writer Lora Abcarian wrote several comprehensive stores on the matter for the March 29 and April 5 Flume.