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The Division of Wildlife Resources is moving 31 bison this week from southern Utah to eastern Utah, but they have to make a medical stop on the way.
A thundering herd in the Henry Mountains of Southern Utah numbers more than 400 bison. Wildlife biologists rounded up 31 this weekend, a risky operation for buffalo that can weigh as much as a ton. Dave Olsen, DWR wildlife biologist, said, "They're not the friendliest critters to work either when you capture them. So, it is quite a project."
Spotters in a plane tracked the bison and a helicopter swooped in for the capture.
Crews airlifted the bison to a processing area for blood tests and then put them in a trailer. Olsen said, "Some of the diseases that bison can get are shared with domestic cattle, so we wanted to make sure and comply with all of the desires and make sure all the animals we're dealing with are healthy."
From the Henry Mountains, the bison stopped at Antelope Island State Park for a tuberculosis check and a radio collar.
Tomorrow they're off to the Book Cliffs, their new home.
They'll join 14 other bison released in that area in August. Dax Mangus, also a DWR wildlife biologist, said, "There's a lot of room out there for wildlife. We have a healthy deer and elk population and pronghorn antelope, and it will be exciting to see the bison population grow out there as well."
This is a big step to establish Utah's second free-roaming herd and only the fifth in the world. The herd in the Henry Mountains started off as 18 back in 1941; biologists hope the Book Cliffs herd grows just as well. "We'd like to have 450 head in the Book Cliffs, free-roaming and available to the public for viewing and hunting," Olsen said.
Various sportsmen's groups and other donors put up the money.
When the population reaches the target level, limited hunting permits will be available for management of the herd. We'll also be able to drive out there and see them.