Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Bison of Antelope Island

There are about five hundred bison on Antelope Island. The herd is free of disease, and for the most part, live until they are about twenty years. The average life span for a healthy, bull bison is only sixteen years in the wild. In the spring, there about two hundred calves, or “reds” added to the herd. During this time, they are on their own. The only help they get is from the forty something freshwater springs on the island. The park provides tanks of water so that it’s a steady source of fresh, clean water. They also help to plant different types of grass, and some sagebrush. But that’s it for fifty one weeks of the year. 

In the early fall, (October 22 this year) the park herds almost all the bison into corrals on the island. This is done completely with horses. If you have a horse, you can come and do this, no special license needed. The only animals that they leave out are the older bulls. Those are the ones that tend to be sensitive to people, even cars and bikes. And yes, if you get to close to a bison, any bison, they will charge. If one stops what it’s doing and looks at you, back away. If one lifts up it’s tail, tosses it’s head and or paws the ground, that is your cue to leave. After that, they will charge. They can weight 2000 pounds, run over forty miles per hour, and jump six feet in the air. 

Anyway, back to the corral. For the first four days they’re left completely alone, to get used to their new environment. After that, they have three days to get around 700 bison vaccinated, and each one gets a general physical. The biologist, (Yes, it’s all done by two or three scientists) also tags the new calves and chooses the ones to sell. That’s how they do population control. Some bison are sent to other parks with bison herds, like Yellowstone, and the others are sold at auction. The park will load the animal into your trailer, but after that, you are on your own with an animal that weights about a thousand pounds. Most of the bison that are sold are eaten, but some people have private herds, or want to start their own. 

A few years ago, they also brought in ten new bulls from Yellowstone, to go into their breeding stock. As with most animals, it’s unhealthy to have a very limited gene pool. They have also figured out that only two of their bison had detectable cattle blood. However, that is only to the point that they’ve tested.

Personally, I think that bison are pretty cool, being able to outrun most horses, out weighing most cars,  and jumping six feet in the air on average. (If they can get their head over it, they can jump it.) They are definitely worth the trip to come see.

We got to see a really bright rainbow, and you can see Elliot running after it.
Here's just a lone, bull bison. The older bulls normally stay out of the herd, and seem to walk around the island in twos or threes.
If you look very closely, you can see the rainbows. The one that's curved is the original, and I think that the other one is from the light reflecting off of the water.

Update: Tiny Kat is just fine, and back to his angry little self.

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