SYRACUSE — Large-scale buyers drove up prices Saturday at the sixth annual Antelope Island State Park live bison auction, and as a result, the state of Utah likely netted over $300,000 for the sale of approximately 200 bison.
Several dozen trucks with empty horse trailers in tow converged on Antelope Island in the morning for the auction. Unfortunately for parties hoping to buy a bison and consume its meat throughout the year, a tiny handful of bidders secured the vast majority of bison up for auction.
"Whereas in some other years we've had more buyers get one animal, this year, it was harder for individuals to get one," park manager Ron Taylor said. "There were some large ranches that were buying, and they pretty well bought most of the animals. We had lots of (bidders), but four or five individuals actually got most of the bison."
As a result, nearly all of the small-time truck-and-trailer combos left the park around midday without the hoped-for hauls of would-be bison meat.
Although Taylor won't know the final figures for this year's auction until Monday, he confirmed that the presence of the large-scale buyers significantly drove prices from last year's going rates.
Another significant departure from last year's proceedings was how the actual auctioning occurred in a large tent temporarily erected directly adjacent to the bison corrals and capable of housing over a hundred people while also showing a live video feed of each individual bison as it came up for auction. Conversely, auctioning occurred for the last several years at the corrals in the physical presence of the animals.
"We went to the tent because it's a lot less stressful on the animals," Taylor explained. "When too many people are back there (among) the pens, it gets the bison worked up and agitated and moving around and crashing into stuff."
The Antelope Island bison herd — which dates back to the 1893 introduction of four bulls, four cows and four calves to the island — approaches 600 head every year before the annual auction strategically removes about 200 of those animals from the general population. The park's website gives the approximate age breakdown of the animals sold on Saturday as 100-120 calves, 30-40 yearlings and 50-65 mature adults.