Antelope Island's buffalo herd was rounded up in record time Monday, and the animals appear to be in peak condition, the island's state park superintendent says.
Mitch Larsson said Tuesday that the yearly roundup usually takes a minimum of 11 hours. Sometimes it lasts as long as 41 hours.Helicopters, horseback-riders and four-wheel-drive vehicles participated.
A day before, horsemen began maneuvering the buffalo into areas where they could be headed out easily on Monday. "The volunteer horsemen had moved a lot of the animals north into an area called White Rock Bay and Upper White Rock Bay, where they spent Sunday night," Larsson said Tuesday.
"Then yesterday morning we started pushing animals into the holding pastures." They were rounded up in about 51/2 hours.
"Got all but four," he said. "One of them's just so big and wily he won't even budge."
The renegades are high on mountain tops - three big bulls and one young bull. "We'll probably just let them go."
The lucky holdouts guaranteed they will not be among the 85 or 90 buffalo that will be sold this year. Most are to help build up private herds, but some will head for the slaughterhouse.
A division spokeswoman said the beasts that are sold will bring about $1,000 each.
Larsson estimated that conservatively, the roundup gathered 500 to 550 buffalo. "They'll stay in the holding pastures here by the facilities from now until Friday," he said.
"We'll just feed and water the animals and let them rest up."
On Friday, the buffalo will be moved through chutes where they will cross scales, providing some of the most important information about their health, that is, their weight. They will be vaccinated to protect them from diseases and parasites.
"They look really good. We were quite concerned about them after the fire we had in June. We never had much precipitation to help in the grow-back of the grasses," Larsson said.
"But in the last seven weeks they've really picked up . . . Their overall health appears to be really, really good."
The animals have been gaining steadily in the past few years and he believes they probably weigh more this year than last year.
Blood has already been drawn from this year's calves, and veterinarians will study the samples for signs of disease.
The buffalo to be sold will be kept in holding corrals, and the rest will be freed when they reach the end of the chutes, he said.
Some won't be free for long. On Dec. 1 the annual five-day buffalo hunt begins, with five hunters from Utah and one from elsewhere. Each gets a permit for one buffalo.