BETHLEHEM Sometime in the night of Thursday, April 23, a herd of bison escaped from its corral on a Schodack farm, swam the span of the Hudson River and caused a chaos for emergency response teams as the beasts wandered lost through South Bethlehem.
The bison escaped from GEM Farms sometime in the afternoon. A bull, cows and calves, 15 animals in all, crossed a commuter train rail, swam across the river to South Bethlehem.
By early Friday morning, residents along River Road in Selkirk reported seeing the herd nearby. Bethlehem Town Police arrived at the scene, employing the services of several agencies to assist in corralling the animals. Initial efforts appeared successful, as the animals stayed along the river banks.
When GEM Farms owner George Mesick, arrived on the scene, his truck was not hauling any animal trailer.
Adult bison can grow as tall as eight-feet, weigh as much as 3,500 pounds and can travel as fast as 45 m.p.h. Those raised for meat are often purchased for thousands of dollars. In a Pennsylvania auction in March, calves went on average for $1,600, yearling heifers for $1,900 and the highest bid for a yearling bull topped at $3,800. These prices don’t compare to the bids at the National Bison Association’s Gold Trophy Show and Sale in Colorado. AJanuary show, the average bull calf sold for $2,400 and an average yearling heifer $3,400. The highest bid of the show went for a 2-year-old bull at $21,000.
The herd ultimately left the safety of the river, crossed over the New York state Thruway, and proceeded through South Bethlehem. Ravena schools kept children indoors for recess while police chased after the herd by aid of a helicopter. The animals were corralled in a wooded ravine at Feuri Spruyt, south of Bridge Street in Selkirk, and at 1:07 p.m., gun shots began to pop. Within an hour, Albany County Sherriff Craig Apple reported all 15 animals were dead. “It was turning into the Wild, Wild West,” he told reporters in a subsequent news conference. “It was turning into a spectacle and it was time to end it.”
People took to social media with the hashtag #BisonLivesMatter to express outrage over the killing of the animals. Despite public opinion, animal experts that included Tom Gallagher of Cornell Cooperative Extension, explained that using tranquilizers on a loose herd would have never worked. The animal’s adrenaline and size would counter act any safe amount of sedative.
GEM Farms continues to be in business and advertises bison meat as one of its products.