Owners will try to thin bison herd

ENTERPRISE — The owners of bison roaming the mountains of northeastern Oregon say they'll try to round up and sell some of the herd now numbering an estimated 50 animals.

The bison have attracted attention from potential hunters and others, such as backpackers, as they have wandered about the area around Eagle Cap Wilderness, The Oregonian newspaper reported.

"The basic herd stays on the property almost entirely," said Debbie Wolf of Creswell, whose father, James Smejkal, owns the 20,000-acre ranch in Wallowa County.

"Every once in a while they break through a fence and off they go," she told The Oregonian newspaper. "Buffalo fences aren't that easy to keep up. We've tried."

The paper said a caretaker earlier disclaimed responsibility for the bison, but Wolf stepped forward after a front-page story.

Smejkal, vacationing this week in Mexico, intends to round up and sell about 10 of the animals in the coming months, Wolf said.

"We will have to put up pens and kind of put them into a pen," she said. "We've never done it, so it could be a circus."

Her father wants to keep the bulk of the herd, which numbered about 15 eight years ago, she said. It produces about nine calves a year.

"We've had them 10 or 12 years or more," she said. "We like them up there."

Adult males tend to stray from the herd, and the roundup will target the bison most apt to roam, she said.

But just because the buffalo roam, it's not open season, said Wallowa County Undersheriff Steve Rogers.

Under Oregon law, they are considered neither wildlife nor livestock.

Instead, Rogers said, they're personal property, and killing one would be first-degree theft.

"You get convicted of theft one, it's jail time," he said.

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