June 18, 2008: Worrisome lack of bison sightings

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To The Editor:
As you reported last week, I am involved in the attempt to protect and safely recover the baby bison and, as an animal-welfare advocate, I am very upset with the senseless slaughter of the bison cow with a calf at her side. Because of the unnecessary and hasty killing of the mother bison, we as a community must now ask ourselves what shall be the fate of her calf who was last seen roaming free across the countryside.
Born after all the bison escaped in April, we know the calf to be female; she should weigh about 150 to 200 pounds and has never known captivity. Over the last couple of weeks, she has been chased to the point of exhaustion by some area residents and even outsiders – both on foot and with ATVs – and some may have even have had the intent to slaughter her like her mother.
Besides the blatant and willful cruelty of these actions, the law is clear that possession of loose or abandoned livestock does not create ownership and that only the police, the ASPCA or a registered Humane Society can impound the calf and then, if the owner does not come forward within five days, they can dispose of the calf legally – by adoption if possible.
Worrisome, the last confirmed sighting of the calf was Saturday, June 7 in mid-afternoon on Margaretville Mountain Road. Advocates including myself identified many tracks she left in the area as she headed back into the Margaretville Cemetery Annex and toward Bull Run Rd. Like cattle and horses, bison are herd animals and, scared and alone, the calf is likely to linger in the vicinity of where her mother was last alive, waiting futility to be reunited with the herd. With the long silence since her last sighting, we fear the worst may have already happened to her, but we truly hope for the best and that some well-meaning resident has taken her in for her own protection. If this is indeed the case, we request that this individual call the NYS Police so that the calf can be seen and treated by a knowledgeable veterinarian and other experienced professionals.
Many people in the area have spoken to me about their feelings of anger, disbelief and helplessness over the entire situation. To them and others who have yet to give voice to this communal sentiment, I ask you to urge our elected officials for a full investigation of the entire incident from the initial escape of the 13 bison and the immediate slaughter of seven in Bloomville to the needless killing of the bison cow and subsequent cruel harassment of her calf in Middletown. They need to hear clearly that we do not condone unjustifiable cruelty to animals in our community and that any incident of such cruelty is not acceptable to us legally or morally.
If the calf is still on the loose and you happen to see her, please immediately contact the NYS Police who will engage qualified individuals to rescue and protect her. If you have the calf, please come forward so that she can be taken care of properly. If the calf has died, please let us know so that we can recover her remains if possible and focus on other animals in need.

Denise Norris,
Andes