LAWTON, Okla. (KFOR) – The remains of two bison, euthanized by Wichita Wildlife Refuge Workers on private property, are now cleaned up.
“I’m glad it’s off my property now and I don’t have to deal with the smell and the headache,” said David Folkert.
Tuesday, Folkert said the Wichita Wildlife Refuge brought front-loaders, tarps, and winches on his family’s property to clear the remains of two refuge bison.
“After over a week of silence from them, they came out,” said Folkert.
Unfortunately, the bison’s heads were missing.
“It’s not my job to guard these carcasses that they left on our property,” said Folkert. “Sheriff’s office told me there’s probably going to be poachers coming after the heads.”
In a previous statement, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said in part, “Two members of the refuge’s core American Plains bison herd moved off refuge several weeks ago.”
On September 24th, Folkert’s mother spotted them in her yard. He said she was delighted. A short time later, two refuge workers knocked on her front door asking where the animals went.
“She told them where the property lines were at that time,” said Folkert.
The next day, Folkert’s family discovered the bison’s bloated remains on the family’s property in a dried up creek.
During a recorded phone call, the refuge’s deputy director told Folkert the bison had been spotted on a cattle ranch neighboring Folkert’s property. They were worried the buffalo could’ve been infected with a disease that is difficult to test. Without a way to quarantine the bison, the deputy director said the workers had to euthanize them on the Folkert’s private property.
“It’s a disease called Mycoplasma bovis that livestock cattle can have and it doesn’t really make them sick, but it can be really devastating to bison,” said Amber Zimmerman, the deputy director of the refuge. “It’s a deep lower respiratory disease. Some herds that have actually gotten it, it’s taken out half of the herd.”
Folkert’s family is upset that the refuge workers never asked to go on their property, or informed his family when they had just shot and killed the two buffalo.
“Our staff was unaware they were on your mother’s property and immediately when It was brought to our attention they did exit the property,” said Zimmerman.
“Almost 24 hours later, it took me going out to the refuge and confronting them before they contacted us,” Folkert told News 4.
“We called your mom because we were under the understanding that she is the land owner and so were legally supposed to go to her,” said Zimmerman.
However, Folkert said his mother was too upset to talk to them.
“I left my number for a reason and not anybody has reached out to me to say ‘Hey I understand my mom’s saying no, but you know I’m willing to help resolve this,’” said Folkert over the phone with the deputy director.
The Friday after News 4 ran the first story, Folkert said he caught refuge workers sneaky onto his property again.
Last week, News 4 reached out to the nearby Comanche Tribe, who called the situation “disheartening.”
“That would’ve been a blessing to have additional food, to be able to give to our people,” said Martina Minthorn, the Comanche Nation Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.
Zimmerman told Folkert the refuge is donating 77 bison that are mostly going to local tribes.
“Right now, the only thing we can donate are live healthy bison,” said Zimmerman. “We really do value our relationship with all of our local tribes.”
During the phone call, the refuge said since Folkert called News 4, the deputy director had to wait until she had the green light to call him a week later.
“Unfortunately, after all of this hit the media, at the national level, I was no longer able to contact you directly until I got approval all the way up through the Department of Interiors,” said Zimmerman. “So yeah, media involvement definitely curtails our ability to call back at that point.”
Wednesday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service sent News 4 the following statement:
“We want to thank the Folkert family for their cooperation in the removal of the bison from their property. With their permission the bison were removed Tuesday. During their conversation, Refuge Manager Amber Zimmerman reiterated to Mr. Folkert that the bison were humanely euthanized following standard procedures to limit the risk of introducing diseases such as Mycoplasma bovis to the core refuge herd. Again, we appreciate the Folkert family’s cooperation and value our relationship with them and all our neighboring landowners. ”
“They’ve had over a week to come together with their story,” said Folkert.