Working the Bison of Antelope Island
A gray sky hung over Antelope Island as the staff and volunteers entered the second day of working the bison.
For three days, volunteers and staff sort through the entire herd of bison and vaccinate, tag, and check on the animals' health. In order to do that safely and efficiently, there is a corral system setup to help limit the amount of bison that are pushed through at a time. By trimming the herd down in size, those working the bison are able to manage the animals for effectively. Since the bison are more accustomed to roaming the island freely, precautions are taken by the staff and volunteers so that the three days are without major injuries.
The working of the bison allows for public to get an up-close look at the animals and learn more about the bison. There are guided tours offered to the public.
Throughout the majority of the time, the bison race in the direction that the workers want them too. The bison race from pen to pen with a few workers encouraging them onward. As the corrals narrow, the workers implement the use of the "turkey catcher", a large cage that fits the width of the corral and can offer workers safety as the machine inches closer.
As the bison are brought down to just one animal at a time, the vets and staff turn their attention to documenting the state of the animal and doing annual checkups on the animals. Some animals must receive tags, which are placed in the animal's ear. In order to keep the animal and those working the bison safe, a hydraulic cage surrounds the animal and the nose of the animal is clamped and pulled to the side. This doesn't hurt the animal, but it keeps the powerful head of the bison from swinging and hurting any of the workers.
After the checkup, the animal is sent one of two ways. One path leads to the corrals for the animals to stay on the island and the other path brings the animal to holding pens. The bison that land in the holding pen will be sold the on Nov. 11, 2017 in a public auction. The herd size must be managed so that the island doesn't have more animals than it can sustainably hold.
If you are interested in checking out the island for yourself, I would encourage you to do so. Antelope Island is a place that I often bring any visitors to, because there are few places in the world where bison roam free.