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Published May 15, 2009, 06:23 AM

Buffalo stay in winter pasture

The buffalo will not be roaming the hills surrounding the National Buffalo Museum on Memorial Day. Instead the animals will remain in the winter pasture for the immediate future. “Normally we move the buffalo to the summer pasture for Memorial Day,” said Felicia Sargeant, director of the National Buffalo Museum. “No way that’s going to happen this year.”

By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun

The buffalo will not be roaming the hills surrounding the National Buffalo Museum on Memorial Day. Instead the animals will remain in the winter pasture for the immediate future.

“Normally we move the buffalo to the summer pasture for Memorial Day,” said Felicia Sargeant, director of the National Buffalo Museum. “No way that’s going to happen this year.”

The museum herd of about 30 animals, including three rare albino buffalo, is pastured around the National Buffalo Museum during the summer and fed hay at the winter pasture the rest of the year.

The problem is the damage done to the fences of the summer pasture by this spring’s high water. The pasture has a perimeter fence and then three cross fences that allow the staff of the museum to control where the animals range during the summer.

The wooded coulee through the buffalo pasture is part of a drainage system that includes a large area near U.S. Highway 281 south of Interstate 94 as well as the area near the Frontier Village. What is usually a small trickle of water ran as wide as the James River for weeks this spring.

“We’re 99 percent sure all the cross fences are washed out,” she said. “And the exterior fence is underwater at the river.”

The staff and volunteers of the museum haven’t been able to get into the pasture to determine how much fence has been destroyed. Even a concrete slab under one of the gates to the pasture appears to be washed away. However, they are assuming the repairs will be extensive and costly.

“It is the most expensive part of the fence that is washed away,” Sargeant said. “The fence in those spots is made of sucker rods and big panels. They are gone.”

Buffalo can be difficult to fence in. Sargeant said an old saying among buffalo raisers is they can be contained by a fence in any area they want to stay in. That is why steel rods, commonly used in wells and known as sucker rods, and special, heavy-duty livestock panels are commonly used.

And the difficulty in containing buffalo might become a factor in keeping them in the winter pasture.

“They’re still in the winter pasture and will remain there as long as the buffalo want to remain there,” Sargeant said. “They are calving right now so they are pretty content to stay put.”

But grazing in the winter pasture is limited.

“We might have to feed more hay,” she said. “They’re not going to be as appreciative of that as they were in December.”

Sargeant said they are exploring options for repairing the fence as quickly as possible and have applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

“Finding somebody to do the work and the money to get it done,” she said. “Those are the two biggest questions right now.”

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at

(701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at knorman@jamestownsun.com

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