Police are buffaloed chasing 2 baby bison 400-lb. fugitives loose on Arundel range

December 31, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer Staff writer Angela Gambill contributed to this article.

Two baby buffalo went roaming across the southern plains of Anne Arundel County yesterday with dozens of police officers, animal-control officials and wildlife experts in hot pursuit.

The 4-month-old, 400-pound bison escaped from their new home on a 36-acre farm in Birdsville shortly after noon Monday and disappeared into the surrounding horse country. Yesterday, they were spotted grazing peacefully at a turf farm more than 12 miles away, but left before they could be captured.

"They're just babies, and they're scared," said Ricky Owens, who bought the bison Sunday from a breeder in New York. The buffalo were supposed to be company for Big Boy, Mr. Owens' pet bull, who has been lonely since his mate, Momma, died several months ago.

But as soon as Mr. Owens and his wife, Tammy, let them out into the 4-acre pen with Big Boy, the two young buffalo bolted.

"They just jumped the fence and kept on going," said Mrs. Owens. "They were gone that fast."

Mr. Owens spent yesterday searching Central Sod Farms and the surrounding woods armed with a shotgun. He said he was ready to kill his animals if animal-control officials failed to subdue them with a tranquilizer gun.

Police said the two young bison were running at speeds of 35 mph at times yesterday. And, at 400 pounds, the two young escapees could make for quite a hazard.

"I don't want anyone to get hurt," Mr. Owens said. "I just want to get them back."

A heavy fog hindered yesterday's search and led people to confuse other grazing animals for the missing bison.

"This is them. I think I see them," one police officer said over the crackling radio. But when Mr. Owens arrived, he said simply, "That's a cow."

Early Tuesday morning, a neighbor called the Owenses to report that their buffalo were munching grass on a farm off Fiddlers Road. Anne Arundel County police officers tried to catch the beasts, but they galloped down the road. In no time, they had disappeared into the mist.

A few neighbors had seen the beasts traipsing about 15 miles from the Owens farm. Late yesterday afternoon, they were spotted for a second time near Swamp Circle Road, but they again eluded their pursuers.

"We heard yesterday they were out," said Bitsy Orme, a long-time Lothian resident. "But we're not worried. We love to watch them."

Some residents along Solomon's Island Road didn't know that a neighbor kept buffalo.

Said Craig Wilkerson of Deale: "A man came by here this morning and said, 'I'm looking for buffalo running around.' I said 'Sure, where they roam.' I thought he was kidding."

When they fled the sod farm off Swamp Circle Road in Sudley, the buffalo were pursued by dozens of police officers, animal-control officials, a wildlife expert with Maryland Natural Resources police and television news photographers. The search team was trying to tranquilize, restrain and move the animals back to the farm, said Tahira Williams, administrator of Anne Arundel County Animal Control Bureau.

Asked whether this has happened often, she said, "Not in my eight weeks of being an administrator. I hope it doesn't happen again."

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