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As the Village Turns

The great buffalo hunt of '05



Well, I guess University of Colorado mascot Ralphie the buffalo won't be making any recruiting visits to our village any time soon.

Unless CU officials can get Ted Kennedy's bulletproof vest before our village police department's traditional 120-gun buffalo salute.

As you probably know, Colorado Springs police (motto: "Ready, Aim, Close Your Eyes, Fire!") were confronted on May 9 by five buffalo that escaped from a West Side meatpacking plant, where they were to be turned into tenderloins. (Unless you are an animal rights activist who would flood my voicemail box with weepy, whiny noises. Then the buffalo, which are very intelligent, were on a school field trip.)

Anyway, our officers reacted in compliance with the departmental policy taught at the Colorado Springs police academy: They ignored the buffalo, shot out the tires on a car traveling three miles over the speed limit, then turned on their lights and sirens and headed for Krispy Kreme.

No, what they really did -- in the backyard of a home in a heavily congested neighborhood -- was open fire on the buffalo with semi-automatic rifles, reportedly unloading 120 rounds of ammunition to dispatch the five animals.

Using that many bullets to kill five animals tells you one of two things: 1) Buffalo must be very tough animals, or 2) This was the work of our village's elite team of marksmen known as SWAT (Shooting Wildlife in the Ankles and Tails).

As I understand it, one of the officers further demonstrated his Wild West sharpshooting skills by tilting his Stetson hat back in a John Wayne-like way, tossing a coin into the air, drawing his revolver and shooting an elderly guy and his dog two blocks away.

Putting bison to sleep

As you'd imagine, local officials have reacted with great concern over the shooting of the buffalo, which are technically not buffalo at all. They are bison. The animals, I mean. Local officials are not bison. (Except County Commissioner Doug Bruce, who last week lowered his head and charged into a group of tourists who were trying to take his picture. Then he ate the Pioneer Museum lawn.)

So Colorado Springs' city manager and former police chief, Lorne Kramer, has launched an investigation into the bison shooting. Among the many questions: Why weren't tranquilizer darts used on the bison?

The answer is that the city had used up all of its tranquilizer darts last year -- apparently, according to witnesses, shooting about three-fourths of the audience with the sleep-inducing darts about two minutes into Mayor Lionel Rivera's riveting State of the City address.

Actually, an officer with the Colorado Division of Wildlife arrived on the scene before the animals were shot. The DOW said there was nothing the officer could do.

"Buffalo in Colorado are not wildlife," said DOW spokesman Mike Seraphin. "We use a tranquilizer drug on wildlife, but federal law doesn't allow us to use it on non-wildlife species."

Seraphin said a typical tranquilizer dart likely wouldn't have much effect on buffalo.

Watch out, buffalo/bison  the CSPD will get you - eventually.
  • Watch out, buffalo/bison the CSPD will get you eventually.

"It's not powerful enough," he said. "Our darts wouldn't put a buffalo to sleep."

(In those cases, experts say, stronger measures are called for. One accepted method would be to sneak up close and read any Gazette editorial aloud to the buffalo.)

Bad smells

The May 9 incident marked the second time bison had escaped from the West Side G&C Packing Co.

"We don't want this to be an annual event, with buffalo running around the community," Kramer said.

Disagreeing with Kramer was Focus on the Family, which said allowing angry, 900-pound bison to stampede down our streets would be a nice event that the Christian ministry would support -- as long it was held in conjunction with another local event such as the city's Gay Pride Parade.

"Another concern," said Kramer, "is that firing 120 rounds of ammunition in a congested area is a significant event."

(Except in Los Angeles, where it's used by actor Robert Blake to signal the end of a date. )

From City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher: "I'd like to wait for the report, but it's totally unacceptable to have our police firing hundreds of bullets in a neighborhood, at buffalo or anything else."

Unless, obviously, some lunatic is driving 36 mph in a 35 mph zone.

Giving another perspective was Councilman Tom Gallagher, who, before moving to our village, worked at a lodge near Yellowstone National Park and is familiar with buffalo. (This Yellowstone connection is also why Gallagher enjoys questioning Utilities' $1 billion water pipeline proposal every hour and then watching a geyser of steam shoot hundreds of feet into the air from Utilities' boss Phil Tollefson's head.)

"These things are going to happen when you have buffalo," Gallagher said. "They're a dangerous and very unpredictable animal. Sometimes, a rifle is the only way to control them. They smell bad and they are bad."

Hmmmm. Smell bad. Are bad. Shoot them.

It would certainly liven things up at McDonald's on McNugget Night.


Listen to Rich Tosches Thursday mornings on

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