Buffalo rounded up for treatment
A group of area men, led by Oskaloosa veterinarian Jerry Robbins, knew they had a full day's work ahead of them.
So last Wednesday morning, they sized up their task: Load a 23-head herd of ill buffalo onto trailers for a trip from land north of Tonganoxie to Robbins' property in Jefferson County.
The animals were moved so they could be treated for parasitic worms.
Sheriff's officers, acting on an anonymous tip two weeks ago, discovered dead buffalo on land owned by Calvin McDaniel. By last Wednesday, a total of 10 buffalo had perished, according to sheriff's Deputy Gerald Smith.
And although owner McDaniel says he didn't know the animals were in peril, sheriff's Lt. John Duncanson said officers will forward their reports to County Attorney Frank Kohl.
"Once the investigation is complete, there will be a file presented to the prosecutor for review and the filing of possible charges," said Duncanson, who was on hand for last week's roundup.
The charges could include cruelty to animals, which may be difficult to prove.
"We've got to establish that he knew what he was doing was neglectful," Duncanson said.
McDaniel says he would never harm his buffalo.
"I probably spend more money on them than most people spend on their children," he said before the herd was rounded up.
Once the roundup was complete, all but one animal was safely loaded onto trailers and taken to Robbins' property. A large bull jumped through a make-shift pen that had been set up on McDaniel's land. That animal headed for a nearby pasture.
"Bulls are usually the most cooperative," Robbins said. "I was real surprised at that bull that he didn't turn and follow the others."
The bull was not loaded, but remained on McDaniel's land.
"He's going to be taken to a butcher facility," Robbins said.
Late last week, Robbins started a six-week treatment process that includes ridding the animals of internal worms, treating external injuries to make their hides less attractive to flies and feeding them a protein supplement.
"We're trying to take as much of that stress off of them as we can," said Robbins, who has his own buffalo herd.
During the roundup, Robbins, McDaniel and three other men prodded and poked the animals. They coaxed and cajoled. The tried sweet-talk and, occasionally, used language that would raise eyebrows on Sunday morning.
Their experience was complicated because the wild animals had never been confined in close quarters.
"They've never had this experience before," Robbins said.
Patience is key.
"That's the one thing I've learned with buffalo: If you don't crowd them and you're patient, they're going to do the right thing," the veterinarian said.
McDaniel, who's had buffalo on his property for 12 years, said he plans for the herd to return to his land.
But first, he will have to pay Robbins for rounding them up and providing treatment.
"It's going to be real interesting in six weeks to see what the circumstances will be," Robbins said. "Until the bill is paid in full, they won't go back."
Although McDaniel is paying for their feed, the cost of the roundup will be substantial, Robbins said.
"Four guys spending the biggest part of a day," he said, breaking off. "You can't get just anybody to come out and load buffalo. They get compensated well. There is a high risk of injury. Not just anybody is going to do that and step into it willingly."