Friday, October 13, 2017

31 Days of the Joys of Autumn - Working The Bison

Bison in One of the Holding Pens Awaiting Their Turns Through the Chute
When the month of October arrives at Prairie State Park it's time to work the bison. That means that it's time to move the herd into a pen and through the corral where, on a certain day, the animals will have their annual vet checks. 
Bison in one of the Holding Pens
The animals are moved from the big pen into smaller holding pens. Here they await their turn at moving through the chute.
A Bull Awaiting His Turn Through The Chute

As each animal moves through the process, it makes its way through a series of gated holding pens and into the chute. One-by-one each animal moves through the chute until it is its turn to see the vet. Upon arrival at the final stop in the chute, each animal is looked over by the vet and his assistants. Blood is drawn for testing and notes are made as to the animal's general appearance, as to whether it's a male or a female, if there are any distinguishing marks or features, etc. and the animal's tag numbers are noted. If there is no tag, a new tag is issued. This helps those of us who work with the animals to know and keep track of the general history of each individual animal that resides within the park. It is at this time, too, that the decision is made as whether to keep each animal or to sell it. A small number of animals are sold each year at a public auction in order to keep the number of animals on the park in check.

A Bull Bison Coming Out of the Chute
As each animal's turn is complete, the animal is released back into one of two pens. The larger group of animals are held in the bigger pen until blood tests come back. Once the animals are given a clean bill of health from the veterinarian, they are released back out onto the prairie. The smaller second group of animals remain in the smaller pen until the date of the public auction when they are sold.

I don't know if working the bison can really be considered one of the "joys" of autumn, but it certainly is an annual event that I look forward to in the sense that it is a really neat time to observe these magnificent animals up close and personal. I'm always glad when it's over, too, and the animals are once again released out onto their prairie home.

Until next time...

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