Spearfish center loses buffalo to developmentBuffalo had roamed the High Plains Western Heritage Center’s north pasture for nearly 20 years, but on Wednesday, officials with the Jumpoff Buffalo Ranch loaded three into a trailer and hauled them away. They were slaughtered, with proceeds from the sale to be returned to the center.
SPEARFISH (AP) — Like so many bison before them, the buffalo that have been icons of the High Plains Western Heritage Center in western South Dakota’s Spearfish have lost their lives because of encroaching development.
Buffalo had roamed the center’s north pasture for nearly 20 years, but on Wednesday, officials with the Jumpoff Buffalo Ranch loaded three into a trailer and hauled them away. They were slaughtered, with proceeds from the sale to be returned to the center.
Their departure ends an era, said Peggy Ables, the center’s director.
“A museum that has live buffalo on display was pretty unique,” Ables said. “We have people come in here who have been to Yellowstone who then write in our guest book that they had to come to Spearfish to see buffalo. It happens every year.
“That’s how unique they are,” she said, before correcting herself: “Were.”
The area has become more populated, and Ables said the center couldn’t risk someone climbing over the fence and getting hurt.
Joe Jorgenson, a co-owner of Spearfish Estates LLC, which has built apartments in the area, said another 18-unit complex would be built soon after the first of the year.
He added that more could be coming, depending on the need in Spearfish.
The male buffalo at the center had been a representative of the American West there since 1993. He’s to be mounted and placed on display in the museum.
The two buffalo heifers arrived in 2006. The staff had nicknamed one of them “Ornery” because she “was into something all the time,” Ables said. “When she decided she was going to get everybody riled up, she just teased them until she got them to run.”
Ornery also was able to tell when a storm was approaching, pacing incessantly for a day or two before its arrival.
At one time, there were three buffalo and two longhorn cattle in the pasture. Both longhorns died of old age several years ago.
Ables said the center aims to bring three longhorn cattle back to the center for the 2013 tourist season. Longhorns, more than other cattle breeds, represent the Old West and the trail drives from Texas to the high plains area, she said.
“That is the basis of the early settlement of our five-state area,” she said.
Ables said she’s looking forward to giving visitors a new display next year, but she’ll miss the bison.
“It was interesting to watch their behavior,” she said. “They had different dispositions. ... We’ve certainly felt privileged to have live buffalo on display all these years.”