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Archive for Monday, March 31, 2008

New fence, bison calves could be headed to wildlife area

A bison cow feeds on hay at the Bison Wildlife Area north of Frontenac. Two female bison recently brought to the park may be pregnant, but there is no reasonable means of testing just yet.

A bison cow feeds on hay at the Bison Wildlife Area north of Frontenac. Two female bison recently brought to the park may be pregnant, but there is no reasonable means of testing just yet.

March 31, 2008

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— Between possible new fencing and two possibly pregnant cows, there's a lot going on at the Bison Wildlife Area north of Frontenac.

Rep. Bob Grant, D-Cherokee, said the area was allocated money for new fencing around the property in the recently passed state capital improvements budget. Rob Riggin, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks public land manager, said the fence was much-needed.

"The fence is probably about 30 years old, and the bases are rotted out," Riggin said. "The wires are getting rusted. Honestly, the fence doesn't stretch anymore, it just breaks."

That's a problem when trying to keep in animals the size of bison, Riggin said. He said the Wildlife and Parks office received an early look at just how bad the fencing was in October.

"Somebody drove their vehicle through the fence and took out eight posts," Riggin said. "Normally, you don't try to break the posts to tell how bad of shape they are in. Obviously, they broke them for us. We got a better feel for how poor the fence really is."

Grant said getting the money for the fence was a victory for southeast Kansas.

"We had to fight like hell to keep that money there," Grant said. "But people really enjoy going by there."

Riggin said the fence needed to be replaced.

"Honestly, it's so soft and rotten that a person could push some of those posts over," Riggin said. "And that's not talking about a bison. They don't usually decide to test the fence, but it would be nice if the fence were in better condition if they did."

Grant has said he wanted the area to expand, but barring improvements to the ground, the room isn't there, Riggin said. He said the area could expand by about eight acres right now.

That extra room may, or may not, come in handy, depending on whether the two 4-year-old cows imported from Garden City were pregnant.

"We don't know," Riggin said. "And we won't really know until they drop. There's just no way to tell."

Riggin said the preserve tried a couple of years ago to bring in pregnant cows, but neither gave birth. Depending on whether the calves are male or female, Riggin might have choices to make about which bison to keep in the area. The original plan is to ship out the two oldest bison.

"They usually don't calve until early May," Riggin said. "There's not much of a way to check."

Riggin said people checked pregnancy in cattle by using a chute. But the area doesn't have a chute, and even if it did, Riggin said the bison could get stressed from running through.

Instead, he said they would wait on signs.

"It might start showing a little more soon," Riggin said. "If it starts making milk, we'll have a better idea.

"Or you might just drive by one day and there will be a calf out there. That's not ideal, but that might happen."

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