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buffalo

A group of bison graze a native grassland pasture in the rolling hills of Cannonball Ranch in Morton County south of Mandan in October.

Buffalo from the David Meyer ranches in North Dakota and South Dakota remain under quarantine following the illegal use of a poison used to kill prairie dogs.

The quarantine includes about 900 buffalo that grazed in one small pasture of Meyer’s former Cannonball Ranch near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation as well as on the former Wilder Ranch to the south. The adult buffalo are under quarantine until September, though yearlings were released from the no-sale hold on Jan. 1.

The situation dates to April, when six dead bald eagles and dead bison were discovered at the former Wilder Ranch. An Environmental Protection Agency-led investigation found that 40,000 pounds of Rozol poison had been illegally distributed across more than 5,400 acres on both ranches, according to EPA documents.

Gregg Ryken, an auctioneer who sold 400 bison for top dollar Jan. 7 at a sale in nearby Selfridge, said he believes none of the animals belonged to Meyer, though one potential buyer said he held back from bidding because he couldn’t be sure.

The sale was listed by Ernie and Beverly Fischer, of Selfridge, who, in the past, have leased Meyer’s Cannonball Ranch for buffalo grazing and held a sale there a year ago. As recently as November, the Fischers told authorities 14 bison were missing or dead at the Cannonball Ranch, near where an anti-Dakota Access pipeline protest has been active since August.

The deaths of those bison continue to be investigated by North Dakota Stockmen’s Association field man Steve Bay, a former Grant County sheriff. Bay said he believes all 14 were most likely butchered and their remains were found in the Cannonball Ranch pastures adjacent to the protest area west of N.D. Highway 1806. He said the dead bison belonged to both the Fischers and Meyer. Meyer did not return two calls for comment on this story.

David Kam, who’s working with the indigenous Free Nations group to start a buffalo sanctuary with the neighboring Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said he had donations to buy up to 17 animals at the Fischer sale, but he was worried about possible Rozol contamination.

Beverly Fischer said all the bison sold at the recent auction belonged to them, or to their cosigners, not to Meyer.

“Dave Meyer had no animals at Selfridge. Fischers have no animals at Cannonball Ranch. David Meyer owns all buffalo at the ranch. We have no interest there anymore. I can attest to the fact that our buffalo are healthy,” Beverly Fischer said in a text message, adding that the Rozol-related quarantine was not her business.

Ryken, the auctioneer, said he wrote only two checks after the bison auction — one to the Fischers and one to a cosigner from Colorado.

“I’m about 100 percent sure none of those animals were Meyer’s,” he said.

Meyer sold the Cannonball Ranch to Dakota Access Pipeline for a reported $18 million five months after the Rozol incident. The company bought the ranch to facilitate construction of the pipeline. Hundreds and at times thousands of protesters have demonstrated against the pipeline and have occupied nearby encampments.

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The EPA said responsibility for Rozol monitoring transfers with ownership. Documents show that only one 80-acre pasture was illegally laced with the Rozol on the Cannonball Ranch out of a bigger spread of about 7,000 acres. Nearly all was spread around various pastures at the former Wilder Ranch, where the dead eagles were documented.

Instead of being applied into the prairie dog burrows, the bright blue poison pellets were broadcast on the ground, according to EPA findings. Dead prairie dogs were left where they died instead of being regularly removed to protect other wildlife. Dead bison were also found as recently as August, documents said. The poison causes animals to bleed to death.

The EPA documents include an administrative order detailing the discovery of the poison, a clean-up plan and quarantine order, as well as notes from a follow-up interagency meeting in the fall. Meyer is identified as the responsible party and the agency’s point of contact in the documents. The documents also note that Meyer did not have proper pesticide certification to apply the Rozol.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awaits lab results of whether the eagles definitively died of Rozol ingestion and federal charges could be brought in the matter, says agency investigator Rich Grosz.

Bald eagles are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, with a possible $100,000 fine and a year’s imprisonment for their death.

The EPA ordered Meyer to till the Rozol into the soil and to monitor the area for dead animals. Because of concerns of human consumption of Rozol-infected meat, the order prevents Meyer from selling the adult bison until Sept. 1 and then only after consulting a veterinarian and the EPA.

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(Reach Lauren Donovan at 701-220-5511 or lauren@westriv.com.)

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