Paynes Prairie Bison Roundup Sparks Controversy
The removal of bison from Paynes Prairie is underway. And so is an effort to make sure the bison are cared for properly. Over the weekend 19 animals were rounded up and 6 of them brought to a farm in High Springs.
TV20's Dan Larkin tells us some fear the animals will end up being slaughtered.
Jere Harrington said, "There's nothing that the DEP or anybody else can do to stop them from going to game preserves or the beef industry."
For over 2 years Harrington has been a volunteer at Paynes Prairie and says the bison should be preserved not removed. She said, the Paynes Prairie bison that exact herd is very special for preservation because they are a rare genetic strain of bison... they're probably the largest herd of pure genetic strain south of the plains."
Gateway Farms, the company hired by the state at taxpayer expense to remove the bison, is the home of several exotic animals. The farm's manager says they have no plan to ship them off for slaughter.
Jennifer Rodemick said, "We're definitely about raising animals... we don't want to raise them for slaughter or anything like that. We're about raising them up into different zoos and parks, we want to do a lot with the different zoos and parks later... that's why we do this."
But there's no guarantee that some of the bison won't end up at a slaughterhouse.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says the herd needs to be thinned out for safety reasons.
Donald Forgione said, "The males, specifically the adolescent males and the older males are the ones that are the most prone to leaving the preserve and getting into harms... possibly harms way so we're very concerned about public safety and about the animal safety."
The males will be sterilized and some will return to the prairie with all the females and calves.
But Harrington says there's no guarantee that will happen. She said, "There's no provision in the contract for follow up, enforcement or penalty if Gateway Farms doesn't take these animals to sanctuary."
Which is where she hopes they'll go to live out the rest of their lives. About 70 bison are on the prairie and it will take about 3 weeks for all them to be rounded up.
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