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Snowdrifts Let Buffalo Shuffle Off S.D. Ranch

Wed., Jan. 15, 1997

About 1,500 buffalo from a herd used in “Dances With Wolves” escaped from a ranch by walking up and over fences covered by towering snowdrifts.

Spurred by fears the animals will spread disease, Gov. Bill Janklow asked volunteers on snowmobiles to help round up the buffalo. Most of the animals were nudged about 25 miles toward home Tuesday, although at least 200 refused to cross a road that served as a major barrier between them and the ranch.

“I don’t want to shoot them, but if I have to, I’ll shoot them,” Janklow said. “I can’t let the infection get out among the other livestock.”

The buffalo roamed from the Triple U Ranch, which has been quarantined for brucellosis, a disease that can cause cattle to abort.

A blizzard that struck the state a week ago buried fences, leaving behind iced-over snowdrifts of 20 to 25 feet in many places. Fences on buffalo ranches are usually 8 feet high.

Two helicopters and about 15 volunteers tried to herd the beasts back to the ranch. Buffalo are dangerous and notoriously difficult to herd.

“They’re damned fast. Faster than you can imagine,” state veterinarian Sam Holland warned snowmobilers.

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