… But Not Without Wreaking Some Damage
By JENNIFER HILL & LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
SHARON – After more than a week on the lam, the buffalo are headed home.
“I’ve spotted almost all of the animals and they’re within two miles of the farm,” owner Brian Grubb Tuesday, July 30. “They’re in two groups, one of 60, one of 15. I fed one group twice, trying to get them calm.”
Seventy-five buffalo got loose from Grubb’s West Creek Buffalo Company, Town of Seward, Schoharie County, Saturday, July 20, after a 2,000-pound bull trampled the gate. “He’s had behavior problems, and he started jumping things. He jumped the gate and crushed it, and the others followed him.”
Since their escape, the buffalo had been seen roaming in the area of the Schoharie-Otsego line – Pleasant Brook, Roseboom and Cherry Valley.
Frank Proper, Roseboom, was shaving last Saturday morning, July 27, when he saw a buffalo’s head reflected, he said.
A July 29 press release from State Police at Richfield Springs reported the herd number at 75 – 45 calves, the rest adults, including three bulls. Proper’s daughter, Lucy, who owns the farm, said she had counted at least five bulls.
“The bulls, especially the large one who surprised my dad, are aggressive,” said Lucy. “I can’t have my son or my dogs play outside because the buffalo are unpredictable and they could hurt them. They could harm my horse, sheep, and cattle.”
The also devoured the second crop of grass for hay; the family plans to use the proceeds to pay its taxes.
The Propers were out of town last Thursday, July 25, when their friends called Lucy reporting buffalo had swarmed onto her farm. They cut their vacation short and came home to find the damage to their fields and farm equipment.
While Lucy was distressed about buffaloes’ damage to her property, she said she is most concerned about people’s safety and welfare. “I don’t want anyone to be hurt,” she said. “And I want to do this the right way. We need to get whoever we can to handle the situation.”
Lucy called anyone she could think of who could help contain the buffaloes and get them back to Grubb – veterinarians, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), forest rangers, the USDA, even 911.
“The problem is, the state has never dealt with a situation like this before,” Proper said. “So they don’t know what to do. And I think Brian is overwhelmed by the situation and needs help.”
At some point, Grubb said, the buffaloes scattered, making it difficult to track them down. “They were safe on the Propers’ farm,” he said. “No one was bothering them. But when they left, people were harassing them, and they dispersed and fragmented, hiding in the woods.”
As herd animals, they eventually sought each other out and began moving back towards the farm, where 125 others await. “They’re a tool we can use,” he said. “I call it the ‘gravitational pull’ of the herd. If they can smell the rest of the herd and get together, if we can get them to the fence line, they’ll see the others and they’ll stay.”
But Proper is concerned that they won’t stay put. “The buffalo are at the end of mating season, and after that they’re going to divide up,” she said. “Either the bulls are going to take females and calves with them and go their separate ways or the bulls will form a ‘bachelor group’ and go off. The bachelor group scenario is the more dangerous of the two.”
State police warned: If you run across buffaloes, don’t approach them. Call Brian Grubb at (518) 588-1402 or State Police at Richfield Springs, (315) 858-1122.