Roving buffalo calf captured and set for life in pasture
By Julia Green
The saga of the wandering buffalo calf ended happily Sunday afternoon when the young orphan was captured near New Kingston and will now live out her life in the company of other buffalo on a farm near Walton.
The calf was captured Sunday afternoon and transported to a foster facility, where she was impounded, placed under quarantine and ear-tagged. From there, she will be transported to her intended adoptive home, where she will be able to mature in a no-kill environment. State police are also aware of the impound of the animal.
“If there was a dream recovery, other than just walking her onto the trailer, this was it,” said Denise Norris, a volunteer with Equine Rescue Resource who has been involved in trying to safely capture the animal. “We envisioned everything that could go wrong, but it all went well from the beginning.”
When the calf continued to make repeat appearances at the Blue Deer Center on New Kingston Road, a group of volunteers, including Norris, Donnie Bush, Suze Skovsende, Charlie Bush, Dave Knapp, Pat Kitchen and John Ferraro, coordinated a plan to wait near the center for the calf to appear. They set up a “base” at the dairy farm of Rob Oravetz, and when the calf appeared, the plan to contain her was put into action.
Volunteers herded the animal toward volunteer Donnie Bush, who was waiting with a tranquilizer gun provided by Frank Spinelli of Roxbury. He was able to dart the calf, and a few moments later she went down gently. Volunteers tied her legs and got her onto the cart, where they checked her vitals and waited for her to recover somewhat before they began to transport her.
“The animal never got agitated,” Norris said. “It was a really simple takedown and it was done the right way, not chasing [her] around with a rope.”
“We didn’t do this half-cocked,” Donnie Bush said. “We did a lot of research beforehand.”
“She seems content where she is, in a paddock with high grass,” said Lynn Tweedie, who has been monitoring the calf. “When we go up there she lets us get about four or five feet from her, but won’t let us touch her yet. I’m going up there with some apples today to see if I can at least get her used to having me in the pen.”
Tweedie added that the calf seems to be doing well.
“We can tell that she was born before our calves – they were all born around Mother’s Day in June – she’s a little older because her coloring was changing, but she’s a bit smaller.
“My husband was saying that since somebody killed her mom, she didn’t get off to as good a start. Maybe that’s because she’s had to fend for herself. Our calves are still nursing, so she should still be nursing from her mom.”
Volunteers who carried her to the trailer estimated her weight to be approximately 125 pounds. They are unsure as to the whereabouts of the remaining at-large buffalo that escaped from the Bovina-area farm in April.
“We now believe we have enough understanding of what we face that rescue is a possibility,” Norris said, though she added that it is “just a consideration. It’s not something we’re running out the door to go do.”
The last sightings of the other buffalo came more than two weeks ago, with area residents reported seeing another mother and calf in the Perch Lake area and at least two other bison near Downsville.
But for the calf that lost its mother a month ago, the story has a happy ending.
“She’s absolutely healthy, her weight was fine… she’s a very happy little bison,” Norris said.
“We’re grateful that we had the support of the community to help us with this situation,” added Colleen Segarra, director of Equine Rescue Resource.