Buffalo cause damage, safety concerns

Contributed by Brian Grubb Some of the loose buffalo are seen 1.3 miles from West Creek Buffalo Company on Thursday, Aug 1.

Escaped buffalo aren’t being very good neighbors, according to property owners who are now hosting the animals.

The herd of buffalo, also known as bison, escaped from West Creek Buffalo Company in Sharon Springs on Thursday, July 25, after one of the buffalo broke a gate. The animals have since dispersed over the area.

One of the properties they settled on is Frank Proper’s Honey Hill Farm in Roseboom. Lucy Proper, Frank’s daughter, said more than 20 buffalo still roamed their property more than a week later and make going outside seem unsafe. She said they had been there for nine days, at that point, and had eaten a “huge amount” of the Propers’ first-cutting hay. The buffalo also leave large piles of manure around the property and dug up around her son’s play area, she said.

“My dad said he feels like a prisoner in our own home,” Lucy said. “Our lives have been turned upside down from this.”

Frank said a state trooper told him he couldn’t do anything on his own land until Grubb took action to corral his buffalo. Lucy said Grubb didn’t have a recapture plan for four days after the animals got out. She said Grubb hadn’t been back to their property “in days.”

“They’re still ripping hay out of the ground,” she said. “There’s no way to stop these animals.”

Grubb on Thursday, Aug. 1, told The Daily Star that the majority of his buffalo were on their way back to West Creek Buffalo Company. He said 64 of the escaped animals were 1.3 miles from home and 18 more were 5 to 6 miles away. The exact number of escaped buffalo is unknown but Grubb estimated it to be about 75. 

Alex Van Breukelen of Maryland owns property on Honey Hill Road. He said about 15 buffalo have also been on his property. Frank manages the property while he’s away, Van Breukelen said. The photo in the first Daily Star story about the buffalo on July 29, where the animals are seen following a green tractor, was taken on Van Breukelen’s property, he said. Though he’s been away for the majority of the debacle, he said he’s been in communication with Grubb the whole time. His main concern, he said, was his family’s safety.

“I’m not willing to send my family up there to walk around and be out in the woods while the buffalo may or may not be loose,” Van Breukelen said. “The last thing I want is for my children to be walking in the woods and to have them encounter a buffalo.”

After hearing there were buffalo on his property, Van Breukelen said he went there last week. He said he suspects the buffalo damaged his well casing and is also concerned with the large amount of manure the buffalo leave on his property. However, he acknowledged that he has a much different perspective than Lucy and Frank, who live in the area full time.

Lucy said the state Department of Environmental Conservation told her that DEC “cowboys” from Connecticut would be sent to the area to round up the buffalo, and cited Otsego County Environmental Conservation Officer Tim Card as a contact to verify it. Multiple calls to Card were not returned. An email statement from the DEC to The Daily Star on Friday read: “The New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Agriculture and Markets (DAM) and New York State Police continue to work with local law enforcement officials to monitor the location of the bison, protect the public, and support the farmer’s efforts to recapture the bison. Additional updates will be provided as recapture efforts continue. DEC, DAM and state police continue to urge the public and the media to stay away from the area during these efforts, including flying drones or helicopters, so as not to startle or disturb these animals while efforts continue to safely return these animals to the farm.”

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.