QUILCENE — Center Valley Animal Rescue has kicked off a fundraising campaign to transport seven adult bison to a sanctuary in Texas.
Organizers have set a $12,000 goal to build heavy-duty corral panels capable of keeping the animals in a pen as they’re loaded into a trailer that will take them to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, a tiny community southeast of Dallas.
“All the stars have to align, and there are lots of moving parts,” Sara Penhallegon, the director of Center Valley Animal Rescue (CVAR), said Friday.
Transport is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 27, although Penhallegon said she still needed to get clearance from the ranch for the anticipated arrival of the bison two days later.
The public can donate at tinyurl.com/PDN-BisonFunds. If the funds aren’t raised immediately, CVAR might use some of its feed and medical fund, she said. As of Sunday, the GoFundMe site had raised $1,000.
The adult bison, plus one younger male, are at the center of an active Jefferson County Superior Court case involving animal cruelty charges.
All eight bison were seized from a Chimacum man’s property in April 2018, when they allegedly were found to be diseased and malnourished.
Denver Lee Shoop, 73, is facing eight counts of animal cruelty, with a two-week trial scheduled to begin Oct. 7. Each charge is a Class C felony, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
The first trial ended with a hung jury in February, and the state chose to re-try the case.
The bison have lived for most of the past 18 months at CVAR, although they spent last winter at a ranch in Washougal and returned to Quilcene this spring.
Penhallegon said it’s no longer safe to keep them at her facility, and Judge Keith Harper ruled Sept. 6 they no longer had to be held there.
Penhallegon testified in a court hearing that day the bison have created between $60,000 and $70,000 in damages by destroying metal fencing, and they have become aggressive and started to charge her and CVAR volunteers.
About $4,000 in the fundraising request would be used to purchase plywood for corral panels to make solid walls, she said Friday.
“If they can’t see through the corral panel, the theory is they won’t try to go through it,” she said.
When the bison returned to CVAR this spring, Penhallegon said they used a shade cloth that worked fairly well. But she said she’ll have to build a new structure to safely load them into a trailer.
“Our current corral they’ve completely destroyed, so that’s no longer an option,” Penhallegon said.
Coastal Farm & Ranch of Sequim has agreed to provide discounted rates and has generally been supportive of the rescue center, she said.
Penhallegon and Megan Titus, a natural horsemanship trainer and cattle farmer from across the street, plan to load the bison for transport.
Titus is a CVAR volunteer who kept the bison on her farm when the bison were first seized, Penhallegon said. However, she said Titus’ cattle pens are not a long-term option for the animals.
“When they first came and they could barely stand, it was perfect,” said Penhallegon, a licensed veterinary technician. “Now that they’re healthy, they would never hold them.”
What remains to be determined is what will happen with the baby, now up to about 600 pounds, Penhallegon said.
Fully grown, adults can weigh about 2,000 pounds, she said.
Penhallegon thought she had a match with a sanctuary at Yellowstone National Park, but another bison — raised as bottle-fed — is much more calm and doesn’t challenge an 8-foot chain-link fence, she said.
“He’s much more active, and that’s the problem with him staying here,” Penhallegon said. “He thinks every day is Bring Your Bison to Work Day.
“He’s different than anything I’ve ever worked with,” she added. “It’s been a good learning experience. My concern is, can we house him when he’s 2,000 pounds? Will that be safe for me to be around?
“At this moment, I can say yes, but I don’t know what the future brings.”
Penhallegon said he’s well-behaved in some aspects and very destructive in others. She said she would give him about 15 minutes to tear apart the chain-link fence at Yellowstone.
“Unless it’s bison-rated hot wire, he can go through it,” she said.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].