Paynes Prairie Bison - One Year Later
Gainesville, FL -- If left alone at this point, the once thriving herd of bison on Paynes Prairie will only dwindle in number.
The herd is now sterile following their controversial round up in March of last year.
Despite petitions and protests, bison were removed and sent to sanctuary. But one year later, questions still surround the state park service's decision.
Gateway Farms in High Springs is home to all but your average farm animals... and for 26 Paynes Prairie bison it became a temporary home.
David Hajos grew up raising exotic animals with his family.
After winning a bid with the state, Hajos and his employees set out to corral the animals.
Females and young sterile males were returned to the prairie... and adult males were sent to High Springs.
It was their fate of the removed bison that caught people's attention.
Protestors feared the bison would be sold for slaughter, but park service officials tell us that was never the case.
"The contract that was let to Gateway Farms did indicate that the animals would be taken to sanctuary where they would live out the rest of their natural lives," Paynes Prairie Park Manager David Jowers said.
To learn their fate we called the four sanctuaries the bison were sent to, and confirmed that they are all still alive and well.
Jowers says their removal wasn't an environmental issue, but rather one of public safety.
"We were having additional issues with them becoming a bit aggressive," Jowers said. "Some of the males were getting older and more aggressive, and we had several escape incidents."
The remaining bison are elusive... preferring to stay in marshy grassy areas off the beaten path.
Park officials say the remaining 54 bison that make up the herd are doing just fine, and there haven't been any incidents of animals escaping or being aggressive in the past year.
The size of the herd will now be more closely monitored.
Plans include introducing bulls for breeding or adding new sterile calves, depending on the size of the herd.
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