BEND, Ore. - Where do the buffalo roam? Well, they're supposed to be safe at home at Pine Mountain Ranch east of Bend, but some are still missing after escaping through a cut fence over the weekend, leaving ranch owner Alan Rousseau scrambling to locate about 60 of them.
Rousseau has owned this sustainable ranch for around 16 years, and the profits from the buffalo and yak meat help support him and his family.
He was at the Portland Farmer's Market on Sunday when he received a call telling him his buffalo had escaped. At first, he wondered if he had left a gate open, until he found a section of fence that looked like it had been cut.
"You know, wire will be mangled. I've seen fences where animals have gone through them, and I have run livestock my whole life," Rousseau said Monday. "If you look at the staples, they are still here, and it was cut at each point where the staples and the fence are."
Rousseau pointed out fresh snowmobile tracks near his property that have a recent dusting of snow over them. This has led him to believe the fence was cut over a week ago.
Though he doesn't know who did it, he does know the buffalo could suffer, if away from home for a long time.
"They wouldn't survive because there isn't enough feed," Rousseau said. "Buffalo survive in the wild, but these animals are used to being fed on a daily basis, so they're used to having hay."
Most of the buffalo are accounted for, except for six that at last report are still wandering around.
The ones that are home now are tired and hungry after being on the run for almost two days. They were able to find many of the buffalo, thanks to the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office and a neighbor's drone.
According to Rousseau, buffalo react much differently than cattle to a round-up.
"You don't herd them the same (because) they have fear of people they aren't used to," Rousseau said. "I'm kind of part of the herd, because I'm in there every day in the summer, moving irrigation. But they were flighty even to me, because they were out of their environment."
Rousseau said if the ranch doesn't find the still-wandering buffalo, they could be out $18,000 to $20,000. For now, Pine Mountain Ranch will leave the open section of fencing, in the hopes that the remaining buffalo come home on their own.
If you do see any of the still-wandering buffalo, you can contact the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office at 541-693-6911 or Pine Mountain Ranch at 541-312-0185, or visit their website at www.pmrbuffalo.com. The ranch is also offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.