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Search for missing bison continues with Ontario community involved

Search for missing bison continues with Ontario community involved

West Nipissing community helps farmer search for escaped bison herd.

By Andrew Joseph,, Photo by Level Up Filming, from Pixabay

There's nothing better than community support when things go sideways, which is what one bison farmer has discovered in the West Nipissing, Ontario area. 

A mid-December windstorm brought down a tree on a farm. Usually not that big a deal, but in this case, the tree partially took out the fencing meant to keep eight bison within the property of Mesut Ates’ The BisON farm that the family had moved to just three years.

It has probably been a century since—if even ever—that Bison roamed free in the West Nipissing area, yet the eight escaped yearling bison found the surrounding environment much to their liking.

When the fencing collapsed, the spooked bison headed onto a neighbour’s property. Discovering the escape, Ates made moves to block the creatures from entry onto a nearby road, which also happened to drive the animals further into the bush.

Since the animals were already scared and it was getting late, Ates figured he would come back early the next day with bribes of food to follow him back—no muss, no fuss. Or at least that was the plan.

But since no one really knows what goes on in the mind of a bison except a bison itself, the creatures still managed to find their way onto a road—much to the chagrin of a car driver who hit one of the animals later that first night.

Unfortunately, the bison was badly hurt—the driver luckily was fine—so an OPP (West Nipissing Ontario Provincial Police) officer was forced to put it out of its misery. The rest of the now seven-bison herd went back into the brush.  

Ates, the next morning, began the task of finding his herd—no knowing of the car accident—following the trail and droppings.

Nearby Crystal Falls resident Nicole Lepage heard about the escaped bison, and despite not knowing the Ates family, offered her assistance. She used her long-time standing clout within the local community to rally others to help the relatively newbie, Ates.

People walked the bush, used drones with video cameras, rode horses and ATVs, but nary a sighting of the bison was found.

Near Sturgeon Falls—six kilometres away from Crystal Falls, reports surfaced that the herd was nearby. A drone search again came up empty.

To help, when the animals were found, Lepage called around for several hours for a portable coral, which was promptly offered up once the problem was revealed.

On Day 3 of the great escape, still nothing in the area.

Then North Bay’s Rob Camirand, owner of RC Drone Services heard about the bison and offered the services of his drone—equipped with more than a standard video camera, his utilized thermal imaging.

Unfortunately, it took Camirand a while to travel to the area, and when he finally arrived the next day (Day 4) snow had begun to fall, which stymied his ability to fly the drone.

We’re now over a week after the bison first escaped into the bush of West Nipissing—and as of December 24, 2021, the creatures are still on the lam. And predatory creatures are a concern.

Ates and his cadre of community searchers continue their efforts. Residents in the area continue to be warned of the creatures possibly crossing the road, the dangers of approaching, and of course, to note where they may have been seen.

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