The OPP is advising everyone in the area to drive with caution as a herd of seven juvenile bison are still on the loose as of Monday, December 20. On December 16 just after 11 p.m. the OPP responded to a single motor vehicle collision on Hwy 64 close to the Crystal Falls turn off. Nathan Parker of Field was on his way home from work when he encountered the bison. His wife, Kaila Gareau, reported that he couldn’t avoid hitting one of the bison and his SUV was a write off. “But he’s okay. He saw that something was on the road, so he slowed down, but not enough because they were across the road, eight of them.” Gareau quickly tracked down the owner of the herd, Mesut Ates, of The BisON Farm on Shoreline Road in Crystal Falls. “He knew they had got out and had called the police earlier in the day to let them know bison were out.” Mesut Ates, when he was contacted, related that during the windstorm that day, a fallen tree on his neighbour’s property knocked down the bison fencing.
Speaking on behalf of her husband, Kaila Gareau added, “Nathan was driving an SUV – the vehicle is totaled – the whole front end is gone. When he got home, he called [work] and they laughed at him. Good thing the OPP made an announcement because nobody would believe him. You say you hit a bison, you know, that’s ridiculous. Everybody believes him now. When he hit it, it stayed down at first, and then it got up and started moving into the bush and he thought, ‘Oh my God, no one is ever going to believe me.’ The bison ended up collapsing and the police were there soon after and ended up shooting it. It was the only thing to do.” Kaila called a friend who lives in the area, Aimée Hodgins, to rush to Nathan’s assistance. “I’m so grateful that somebody didn’t die. If someone had been on that highway, some kid in a little car… Nathan is having a hard time with this for a few reasons.”
Aimée Hodgins, a homestead farmer who also keeps livestock, was already retired for the night when she got the call that Nathan had hit a bison and needed someone to pick him up. She and her partner were the first on the scene and spotted the herd. She related, “We didn’t see them at first. They were all huddled around the one that was injured. It couldn’t walk and its bone was sticking out of his leg. The farmer (Mesut Ates) showed up, and then eventually the cops showed up.” Hodgins was concerned that the farmer was ill-prepared to deal with the situation. “I understand he was probably in shock. It was pretty shocking. He didn’t come very prepared… An animal that size, you need to have a protocol in place if they get out… I think he didn’t understand the magnitude of what happened. He didn’t want the officer to shoot it, but the officer handled it really well. He came right away, got out his gun and said we need to put this animal down, it’s dying and in pain. … It was probably shocking for [Mesut Ates], and overwhelming. We were prepared to take it if he wasn’t going to take it. We asked him several times if he was sure, that we can help you drag it up, we’ve got knives.” Hodgins said that when the officer shot the wounded bison, the other seven bison bolted into the bush – and they remain on the loose.