SPEARFISH — The buffalo that have been an icon of the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish were removed from the pasture this week.
On Wednesday morning, officials with the Jumpoff Buffalo Ranch, located near Buffalo, S.D., loaded the three buffalo in a trailer, removing the animals that had roamed the center’s north pasture for nearly 20 years.
Peggy Ables, the director of the center cited safety concerns over recent development near the display pasture.
The liability of someone climbing over the fence and getting hurt was too great.
Joe Jorgenson, a co-owner of Spearfish Estates LLC, the firm that built the apartments said that another 18-unit complex would be built soon after the first of the year and more, depending on the need in Spearfish, are planned.
“A museum that has live buffalo on display was pretty unique,” Ables said. “We have people come in here who have been to Yellowstone who then write in our guest book that they had to come to Spearfish to see buffalo. It happens every year. That’s how unique they are — were.”
The male buffalo had been a representative of the American West at the center since 1993. The two buffalo heifers arrived at the center in 2006. At one time there were three buffalo and two longhorn cattle in the pasture. Both longhorns died of old age several years ago.
“Our intention is to have three longhorn cattle on display for the 2013 tourist season,” she said.
She said longhorns, more than all the other breeds of cattle, represent the Old West and the trail drives from Texas to the high plains area. “That is the basis of the early settlement of our five state area,” she said.
Cowboys herded the longhorns north trailing them from water source to water source and the short grass found along the way was full of nutrients, actually allowing the cattle to gain weight along the way.
Over time the longhorns in the area were replaced by hereford cattle and then angus cattle.
The buffalo were slaughtered Wednesday morning and proceeds from the sale returned to the center. Although they will no longer roam the center’s grounds the male will still have a presence at the museum. He will be mounted and placed on display.
She said she will miss watching the buffalo.
“It was interesting to watch their behavior,” she said. “They had different dispositions.
“The one we called ‘Ornery’, was into something all the time. When she decided that she was going to get everybody riled up, she just teased them until she got them to run.”
‘Ornery’, she said, was also able to predict when a storm was approaching.
“She could tell when a storm was blowing in. She would start pacing all day long and sure enough within a day or two the storm would come in,” Ables said. “I’ve been around cattle and horses and that is something I’ve never seen.”
“We’ve certainly felt privileged to have live buffalo on display all these years. We are looking forward to providing our visitors with an new and interesting live display of longhorns for 2013,” Ables said.