‘Very scary’: Cowboys capture Bison that escaped from veterinarian’s property in Belton

Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 1:02 PM CDT
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - Central Texas cowboys on horseback on Tuesday afternoon helped authorities in the city of Belton, corral, tranquilize, and capture a loose bison.

“It was pretty tough because he kept beating us into brush,” said cowboy Joe Draper. “We couldn’t get him to come out to where we could actually get a shot and get him roped and get him captured.”

Paul Romer, a spokesperson with the City of Belton, told KWTX the animal, which belongs to a local rancher, escaped from a veterinarian’s office on E. 6th Ave. at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

It happened near the busy downtown area and “we’re grateful it didn’t go near a school bus,” Romer said, “I’ve been working in Belton for 10 years now and nothing like this has ever happened. Thank goodness nobody got injured on the interstate. It was very scary to have this animal on the loose.”

An animal control officer immediately reached out to veterinarians and cowboys for assistance as soon as police and city officials were alerted about the animal.

“Our animal control officer is the one who called the Salado veterinarian and said ‘hey, you got anybody that can come out and assist?’” said Romer. “That was a key decision early on.”

The bison was spotted in an area with thick brush and struck with a tranquilizer.

That, however, did not stop the animal and dogs were brought in to help cowboys on horseback continue tracking it.

“It can get pretty hairy in there sometimes, it’s pretty dangerous, especially at that high rate of speed,” said Draper.

The bison was spotted again and struck with another round of tranquilizers. It was eventually corralled and captured near I-14 at about 1:30 p.m.

“The bison is okay,” Romer said,” It’s a good day. The buffalo is safe and no one got hurt.”

Earlier Tuesday, a the bison was spotted on Penelope and along the I-35 Frontage Road.

Central Texans who spotted the animal also chimed in on social media throughout the morning, providing updates as authorities worked to capture the animal.

“Nobody got hurt, he’s alive, he’s in the trailer, and he’s going to his new home,” said cowboy Derreck Lisenbe.

The Cameron Park Zoo in Waco is home to three bison.

“Bison are actually the largest terrestrial animal in North America,” said Emily Weathers, Mammal Keeper at the Cameron Park Zoo. “They’re actually the national mammal of the United States.”

Zoo keepers say the animals nearly went extinct in the 19th century but conservation efforts have stabilized the population.

While bison are native to Central Texas, experts say you’ll only see them in captivity, where they’re raised for hunting and meat purposes or as pets.

“There are some in Caprock Canyons State Park, there is a Texas State Bison Herd there, but actually in the United States Yellowstone is the only place where they’ve roamed continuously since prehistoric times,” said Weathers.

While Tuesday’s event was rare, zoo keepers say, if you do come in contact with a large animal like a bison unexpectedly--give it some space.

“They can run 35mph, so if you think you can outrun them you generally can’t, they can also jump up to six feet,” said Brittany Eckenrode, Mammal Keeper at the Cameron Park Zoo. “Bison are very tough, strong animals...as long as you keep your distance from them, you should be just fine.”

While many people use ‘bison’ and ‘buffalo’ interchangeably, they’re actually different animals, zoo keepers say.

“One of the distinct differences between bison and buffalo can be where their horn placement is, so buffalo: they’re kind of in the front, and then bison: they kind of have it on the side, as well as they have skeletal differences between them,” said Eckenrode.

Although the Belton bison was tough to catch, the cowboys said it was still a ‘thrill.’

“It’s always fun when you get to come rope buffalo,” said Draper. “Especially out of downtown Belton.”

A similar incident happened in Waco in October of 2015 when an elk was on the loose.

The bull elk was running through downtown for about seven hours before it was finally subdued and removed to a private herd.

Bison on the loose in Belton, Texas
Bison on the loose in Belton, Texas(Belton Police Department)