A weekend roundup of hundreds of buffalo on the Great Salt Lake's Antelope Island, aimed at counting and vaccinating the rare animals, ended in tragedy when a calf died.
The second annual roundup, in which local horse riders assisted state parks officials in branding the herd, was more difficult than the first, perhaps because the bison were made more wary by memories of last year's activities.At one point Saturday, two calves that got separated from their mother ran into the Great Salt Lake and had to be lassoed and pulled back to shore. The one that swam further out had to be pulled back by helicopter and died during the ordeal.
"It's sad it died, but if the helicopter hadn't tried, she'd have swum farther and farther," said Gary Percival, a Farmington rider who helped pull both calves to shore.
Last year, the roundup was conducted with 60 horse riders, a few helicopters and many trucks and four-wheel-drive vehicles. The crew was smaller this year and included two helicopters, about 30 riders and approximately 20 vehicles that tried to steer fleeing buffaloes back to the larger herd.
"This business of watching them peeling off in twos and threes and watching them go is making it rough," said Steven Fielding, a park ranger and driver of one of the pickup trucks.
"Last year it was easy. They came over the hill and we herded them down and right into the corral," he said as he steered the truck down a bumpy hill toward the beach.
Jay Christianson, director of the northern region of the State Division of Parks and Recreation, said the bison were "ruder" this year.
By lunch, three-fourths of the herd had been corralled and the remaining animals were gathered in the afternoon.
No buffaloes will be taken off the island this year to sell, Fielding said. Almost 100 were sold last year.
"They're going to let the herd go to 1,000," Miller said. About 500 are on the island now, he said.
However, 10 hunting permits have been issued for a hunt that begins Nov. 26 and lasts two weeks. Five hunters will be taken each week to the island by Western Rivers Expeditions, said Fran Craigle, division spokesman.
A hunter can obtain a permit only once in a lifetime, she said.