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Animals-at-large: Bison family roams South Hill for third time in one year

The repeat offenders brought their baby with them this time.

SPOKANE, Wash. — A repeat offender was caught by the Spokane County Sheriff's Office hours after his getaway. The escape artist decided to take a stroll around his neighborhood but was met with law enforcement backup after 15 blocks.  

A deputy found Baxter, a 1,700-pound bison, exploring Spokane's suburban South Hill neighborhood. Some animals are just meant to roam, but in Washington they have to roam their own property. SCSO responded to a call around dawn of a person claiming a bison was loose in their backyard. 

"They shouldn't be running loose, obviously," Washington State Department of Agriculture's spokesperson Hector Castro said. 

All animals, dog, cat, horse, cow and bison, need to be kept safe by their owner, Castro said. No stranger to the Spokane authorities, Baxter-the-bison made an appearance on the police scanner around 6 a.m. His partner Hazel and their son Basil were seen by neighbors a couple blocks from the male.

One time getting out is an accident, twice is a coincidence but three times may show negligence. 

"Livestock owners, most know this, how important fencing is," Castro said. "There's an actual state law that requires that appropriate fencing be in place to keep the animals corralled."

There are specific regulations for fences that people need to follow when keeping livestock. Along with that, the state legislature says "The owner of any animal that is unruly, and in the habit of breaking through or throwing down fences," and they continue to allow the animal to "run at large" is liable for all damages caused by the animal. But these bison that keep escaping just walk around. 

Credit: Dana Fike
Baby Basil roaming the South Hill

Note: This video is from KREM 2 viewer, Mizu Howell who took this around 9:00 a.m. on October 8, 2020 on the South Hill.

So will there be consequences for the owner? Castro said maybe. Penalties could range from fines from the Sheriff's Office or from the state. They could also come in the form of civil action against property or personal damage. 

Some neighbors have also raised concerns about the safety and care of the animals. After the most recent escapes in October 2020 and July 2020, a neighbor even suggested taking the bison away from the owner. 

"It certainly has happened," Castro said. "But the only cases that I'm aware of are cases where there is significant negligence of the animals. And certainly, it's a risk for the animals and for the owners, if it continues to happen."

KREM 2's Morgan Trau tried to contact the owners but could not reach him. The sheriff's office said that when they got the animals safely back to their property, a deputy warned the owner that there could be penalties coming in the future. 

This whole ordeal took about five hours in total. Castro wants to let the SCSO know they are always available to help in these type of events, but hopefully there wont be a fourth escape.