Charges to be filed against bison ranchThe Sioux County state’s attorney says charges will be filed against the owner of a ranch along the North Dakota-South Da-kota border where hundreds of bison broke loose, trampling fences and gobbling other ranchers’ hay supplies.
By: By James MacPherson, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — The Sioux County state’s attorney says charges will be filed against the owner of a ranch along the North Dakota-South Da-kota border where hundreds of bison broke loose, trampling fences and gobbling other ranchers’ hay supplies.
Sioux County prosecutor John Gosbee said “multiple” counts charging livestock at large and one count charging neglect of an animal will be filed against the Wilder Ranch, owned by millionaire businessman and real estate developer Maurice Wilder, of Clearwater, Fla.
Wilder and Dan O’Brien, who manages Wilder’s 200,000 acres of farm and ranch land in eight states, did not return telephone calls from The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Eight ranchers have submitted claims totaling more than $60,000 in damage to hay and fences, Gosbee said. Other claims may be pending, he said.
Sioux County Sheriff Frank Landeis said Wilder was billed for the damages a month ago but has not responded.
“We sent it certified mail and he did pick it up, but he’s dragging his feet,” Landeis said. “We’ve gotten no response whatsoever from him.”
Hundreds of bison es-caped pastures in early January by walking over fences that were covered with deep, dense snow. Once on the loose, some of the bison entered neighboring pastures in search of food.
The ranch has about 2,500 bison, 1,100 cattle and seven employees, ranch officials have said. The bison are slaughtered at facilities in North Dakota and Colorado and sold for meat.
Ranch workers using snowmobiles and pickups rounded up the loose bison in late January and early February and moved them to feed yards in South Dakota.
“There aren’t any on the North Dakota side now,” Landeis said Tuesday. “I was down on the South Dakota side last week and counted six dead ones, and some of the others looked pretty rough yet.”
Veterinarians from North Dakota and South Dakota have been investigating complaints of animal abuse and neglect at the ranch.
Dustin Oedekoven, South Dakota’s acting state veterinarian, said the ranch was required to craft a management plan and have extra feed on hand, and to hire a veterinarian to monitor the health of the bison herd.
“For the most part, they’re pretty healthy,” Oedekoven said. “Last winter was rough and some didn’t fare too well. They were dealt some pretty tough conditions.”
Oedekoven said the Wilder ranch has been cooperating with South Dakota officials.
“It’s an open case, and so far, we’ve been able to resolve issues that have come about,” Oedekoven said. “We don’t have plans to file charges, but that could change.”
Jesse Vollmer, North Dakota’s assistant state veterinarian, said tests were done on one dead bison found on the North Dakota side of the ranch. The necropsy found the animal was dehydrated, and the results were forwarded to the Sioux County state’s attorney, Vollmer said.
“We can’t comment further because of the ongoing investigation,” Vollmer said.
Sheriff Landeis said Wilder must deal with several issues before the animals can come back to pastures in North Dakota.
“He needs to take better care of his animals and sell down the herd so he can take care of them,” Landeis said. “And he needs to pay for damages caused to other ranchers.”