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.