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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pair of escaped local bison herded into Spokane’s Underhill Park

A pair of bison attracted attention Wednesday morning when they escaped their South Hill enclosure and migrated to an East Central neighborhood park.

Baxter, who weighs 1,700 pounds, and Hazel, who weighs 1,300 pounds, wandered away from a South Hill ranch and into the road on Florida Street and Pratt Avenue on Wednesday.

According to a Spokane Police Department news release, officers responded to the area and followed the bison around the lower South Hill, directing the animals away from traffic.

The bison were eventually coaxed into Underhill Park and laid down in the middle of a baseball diamond.

A Spokane Police officer who has raised bison in the past, Lee Barker, assisted in moving them and cordoning them off from the public.

Neighbor Jessica Callier said she’s noticed deer, turkeys and moose in the park, but this is the first time she’s seen bison.

“That’s not something you wake up to every morning, that’s for sure,” she said.

The two bison, which she’s seen before at their farm higher on the South Hill, were calmly loitering in the park when she walked out on her porch at around 8 a.m. Wednesday. All the neighbors kept their distance.

“You don’t want to press your luck with a buffalo,” she said.

While the bison aren’t entirely domesticated, their owner, Kevin Davidson, said they’re friendly and inquisitive. Davidson purchased the pair from a bison meat farm after their mothers died. Hazel, the friendlier of the two, was bottle-fed, and Baxter used to roam with a herd. The two live with some mules on Davidson’s property near the Glenrose and Carnahan intersection on the South Hill.

He said the two bison have escaped before, but most of the time they are close enough that he and a few friends can work together to shoo them back into their pen.

“They’re pretty good escape artists,” he said. “I don’t know why they get out. They have plenty to eat and lots of pasture.”

This time, he said, one of the bison was able to get its horn under the wooden fence and rip it out of the ground. He said the animals were likely out all night. He said he’s working on building more secure fencing for them.

Callier said other neighbors had noticed the bison on the Ben Burr Trail before they ended up at the park and said the animals didn’t seem to be in a rush.

When Davidson arrived to pick the bison up, a chute was set up to guide them into a trailer. Callier said the pair complied with little protest. While the encounter was strange, Callier said she and most of the neighbors enjoyed seeing the animals.

“It’s not every day you get to see buffalo from your front porch,” she said.

Jennifer “Otter” Bercier, a friend of Davidson who helps him care for the bison, said bringing the bison back is sometimes inspiring. She said groups of people often rally together to find them and appreciate seeing them up close.

Though they often look for ways to escape, Bercier said they almost are always willing to come back.

“Is the grass greener on the other side of the fence? To Hazel and Baxter, it is,” she said. “They know this is home, though. They’re safe, and they do willingly come back home.”