Over the past two weeks, bison in the town of Kelly have run amok, raiding haystacks and even goring residents’ horses.

On Christmas Eve one of the one-ton, often ornery ungulates punctured a 4-year-old horse named Phoenix owned by the Budge family, Nicole Budge said Friday.

“This was just a young horse,” Budge said. “I don’t think he’s used to fighting off the bison for his feed.”

Wyoming Game and Fish Department Warden Jon Stephens had been shooing the herds out of the Budge’s pasture as many as three times in a day.

Problems with bison herds on the Budge property are new this year, she said.

Horses owned by the Biolchini family and housed at Spur Stables Horse Boarding have come out on the bad side of encounters with bison this winter, too.

The day after Christmas a bison leapt over the Biolchini’s fence and ended up sending two of the family’s three horses to the vet, Fran Biolchini said.

“There was supposedly three bison that were kind of rogue,” Biolchini said.

“They went to the vet and the vet sewed them up and they are recovering,” she said of her animals.

The Kelly resident also said that issues with bison are a new phenomenon.

“I think for some reason this year the animals seem to be really hungry,” Biolchini said. “I don’t know if that’s because there’s ice underneath the snow or exactly what.”

Stephens confirmed that three bulls were responsible for most of the conflict. Stephens tried unsuccessfully to haze the bulls away several times on foot, an experience he described as “humbling.”

On Wednesday, with the aid of a vehicle, Stephens was able to move the trio west to Highway 89, near the Gros Ventre River.

“Last I knew they were still lingering in the same spot we more or less pushed them to, away from Kelly,” Stephens said.

Clear across the National Elk Refuge, south of Miller Butte, bison have been coming unusually close to Jackson — within 250 yards of town.

Although they have not been causing problems with people or pets, refuge biologist Eric Cole said the animals have been hazed north by the refuge, away from the refuge road, on Monday and Tuesday.

For the Budge family, bison and other wild animals often result in a diminished supply of horse feed.

“They’ve eaten quite a bit of hay,” she said. “Every time we go feed we probably have 20 head of deer also eating.

“At $200 a ton, it adds up quickly,” she said.

While hay consumed by game animals can be reimbursed by the state, Game and Fish will not pick up the $600 veterinary tab, Budge said.

“My daughter bought this horse to ride, and he’s sort of an investment,” she said. “She’s going to pay the vet bill that Game and Fish won’t reimburse her for.”

When some predators attack and injure livestock, the state will pay the bill, Budge said, but they won’t do the same for wounds caused by bison, elk or deer.

“I think it’s a little arbitrary for the state to decide which animals they get to be responsible for when there’s property damage,” Budge said.

“I’m going to look into it and talk to the Game [and Fish] commission and work on whether I can get that law changed for the future,” she said.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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(8) comments

Greg Sievers

what would Jedadia Smith do? or Judge Roy Bean? or Theodore Roosvelt? or William Munny? 3 bison creating havoc............... ???????? just 3?
Is the Great State of Wyoming becoming SO gentrified that the solution is this exceeding complex?
the food bank of Teton County awaits your decision.
PS: get a few mules into that mix and see who comes out the victor.

Nordlaw Ari

If this would have been some dog in town (Kelly or Jackson) there would be an outcry from every mut owner in town. Since everyone doesn't have horses it will be the owners fault for keeping them on their own property.

Shane Rothman

Brucellossis can be transmitted to horses... If a cow was gored this would've put the state in panic mode... Brucellosis is just a hoax though, everyone knows that.

Lloyd Dorsey

There are ways to protect hay and livestock from conflicts with wildlife. Spatial separation is one way. Livestock can be wintered elsewhere, and many Jackson Hole owners choose this.
Another way to achieve separation is to erect high fences
around haystacks, hay feeding areas, corrals and pastures. Well known printed
resources are available to help guide livestock owners to what kind of fences
are appropriate. The Teton Conservation District has the "Rural Living Handbook" on their website. Special Purpose Fencing is addressed on p. 9.
Another resource is "A Landowner's Guide to Fences and Wildlife" by Christine Paige, endorsed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Teton Conservation District, the USFS and seven other groups and agencies. Exclusionary fences are described beginning on p. 42. Some money for fencing and other conflict mitigations are available from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust Fund, and other sources.
Building the right fences in the right places allows wildlife to move on, protects expensive hay, and helps livestock, people and wildlife avoid conflict and be safer.

pop mcgop

Very sad to hear about the horse, however I am not sure I agree with Fish And Game(our tax dollars) having to pay for any damages caused by wildlife, in this day and age you can live many places that do not have wildlife, so I would view it as a choice that you choose to live in an area with the possibility of wildlife encounters. And liability should be on the individual not the people/government.

Chad guenter

pop, would it be OK for the horse owners to protect their horses on THEIR property by shooting the offending "out of control" bison?

Chad guenter

Juila, Bison are not hunted in or driven OUT of the National Parks.

Nice try though.

Julia Kirby

Could this be something to do with the Bison hunt and driving them out of the National Parks? I'd think so.

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