By JENNIFER HILL • Special to AllOTSEGO.com
Brian Grubb is hunting his buffalo – with a tranquilizer gun.
Monday, Aug. 5, “I used a tranquilizer on a cow-calf pair and another cow from the 65-member group,” he said. “Then we – three other guys and I – used machinery to lift the cows and manpower to lift the calf onto my trailer. Four others – two cow-calf pairs – followed them onto the trailer.”
Back at his Town of Sharon ranch, Grubb and his helpers put the animals in a temporary corral and gave the three tranquilized buffalo the antidote to bring them around.
But that’s just seven of the 75 bulls, cows and calves that have been roaming in the towns of Roseboom and Cherry Valley since Saturday, July 20.
After capturing the seven Monday, Grubb ordered more tranquilizer kits and expected to continue the hunt as early as Tuesday evening.
Since a 2-ton bull jumped on a fence, trampled a gate, and led 75, give or take a few, along the Schoharie-Otsego County line, Grubb has been trying to get them back to his Engelville Road farm, about two miles south of Sharon Springs.
In the first week, the rogue buffalo wandered up to nine miles from West Creek, across the Schoharie-Otsego line into Pleasant Creek, Roseboom and Cherry Valley.
But starting Wednesday, July 31, the buffalo began heading back home after splintering into two groups, one of about 65, the other smaller. By Friday, they were within a half mile of West Creek at two separate locations.
Monday, Grubb fed the remaining escapees, and drew them closer to home. “They only needed to go over a ridge,” he said, “and if they had, they would have been home. But they circled back to where they had been hanging out.”
Grubb described the area past the ridge that the buffalo would need to walk through as “dense with shrubbery. They’re like humans or any other animal,” he said. “They’re going to take the path of least resistance – and that isn’t one.”
The afternoon this edition went to press, he said, the animals had been “very stable since they came back to where they’ve been and haven’t fragmented for the past four to five days.”
That would make the tranquilizing strategy easier, he said.
Regardless, the animals seem interested in getting home. “Buffalo tend to stay together, and I think both groups were searching for more buffalo,” Grubb explained. “They covered four miles in one night last week, which was a lot of traveling.”
Grubb got into the buffalo business in 2011, a year after he met his future wife, Susie, and took her to his father’s farm in Illinois where he kept some buffalo.
“She fell in love with the animal and wanted to raise them,” he said. “Most people get married and then become business partners. We did it in reverse.”
They bought the Sharon property and 14 buffalo, one bull and the rest cows, and now have about 200 of them. The Grubbs raise the buffalo and sell them to companies that harvest their meat.
The other benefits, Grubb said, are people’s increasing awareness of buffalo meat’s health benefits –it is low in fat and cholesterol – and that buyers pay $4.50 per pound of buffalo meat and only
$2 a pound of beef.
And until a two weeks ago, Grubb had not had any major problems with his buffalo. When asked about the fate of the 2,000 pound bull who started all the trouble, Grubb had a ready answer.
“It’s my hope that he’ll be attending a barbecue in the near future,” he said.