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Bison move to new home after stop on Antelope Island

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - Jan. 18, 2010 at 6:11 p.m.


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ANTELOPE ISLAND -- Some of Utah's brawniest residents are getting a new home. On the way there, they made a detour to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.

We're talking about bison -- or, as some call them, buffalo.

Friday and Saturday, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources captured 40 bison from the Henry Mountains of southern Utah. Immediately after, they were given shots for tuberculosis.

The herd in this area is doing well -- perhaps too well.

"The Henry Mountain bison population has been growing, and they have more animals down there than what they want to have based on what habitat's available to the animals," said Dax Mangus, a biologist at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The beasts are now taking a brief vacation on Antelope Island. They're kept in pens, quarantined, as they undergo disease testing.

"Everything's looking great. Everything's healthy," said Mangus. "We're really thorough. We want to make sure the animals are disease-free, and that everything's healthy."

Later this week, animals that pass health inspection will be sent by trailer to eastern Utah for release in the Book Cliffs region. That area was seeded with 44 bison in 2008 and 2009.

"So we're just kind of giving that population a little jump start to get it on its way and start growing," Mangus said.

The Henry Mountain herd started small also, with 18 animals in the 1940s. It's been stabilized in recent years at 300 bison. With three herds now, including one on Antelope Island, Utah is becoming a special place for bison.

"There are not a lot of free-ranging bison herds on public land," Mangus said. "And this is a neat opportunity to be part of this project."

Most of the funding for the transplant project comes from hunting fees and contributions from hunting groups. In a few years, biologists hope the new herd in the Book Cliffs will be doing well enough to allow hunting.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com

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