ANTELOPE ISLAND — People in France know more about the Antelope Island Bison Roundup than Utahns do, one Frenchman says.
“We have a national show in France, a big show, and everything Western is shown there, including the roundup,” said Thierry Lavigne, who has lived in Salt Lake City for the past four years and has attended the Antelope Island roundup each year.
“This is the only place in the United States where the public can watch cowboys play with big bison,” he said. “It’s experiencing a piece of American history and culture.”
Lavigne and several other hundred spectators stood along the roadside Friday to watch about 400 bison being herded into the island’s corrals during the 25th anniversary of the roundup.
This year, the state park did not limit the number of riders in the roundup. About 150 posse members from Davis, Weber, Cache and Utah counties were on hand to do the actual roundup, while another 250 people came to ride their horses.
Wendy Wilson, a naturalist at the island, said 720 bison inhabit the island.
Not all of the bison were driven to the corrals Friday. About 90 cows and calves will be rounded up today.
About 100 had made it into the corrals on their own earlier this week. Another 100 bulls were not herded to the corrals.
“We don’t want the bachelors,” said John Sullivan, assistant park manager. “The big bulls just tear up things up in the corral.”
The purpose of the roundup is to weigh, blood-test, inoculate and scan the calves, Wilson said. It is also the time to check to see which cows are pregnant.
The herds are led by a cow, and on Friday, one herd did not want to go north to the corrals, nor did it want to go south toward Fielding Garr Ranch.
“We have one psycho group out there,” Sullivan said as he looked through binoculars.
“The riders are trying to get the psycho group with the other group, but first, they ran south, then stopped. They ran north, then stopped. Then they ran east.”
Once the large herd reached the corrals and the lead cow went inside, the majority followed.
But one cow decided she wasn’t going and “charged through the line of riders,” Wilson said as she looked through her binoculars.
“A couple of people got their heart racing,” she said as the horse riders moved quickly to get out of the bison’s path.
For some locals, coming to the roundup is an annual event.
Max Harward, of Bountiful, is a historian who lived on the island as a boy in the early 1940s while his father served as the foreman.
“I just come because I like it,” Harward said.
This is the 20th year that Park City cowboys Jess Reid and Dean Berrett have participated in the roundup.
The first year they rode, only 45 riders participated.
“It’s a great terrain, and in a way, you’re stepping back in time into the Old West,” Reid said as the riders stopped by Garden Creek before making the first push on the herd.
Eldean Holliday, 79, of Kaysville, rode in the roundup for the first time in 1987. Friday’s ride was his 13th time to participate.
He, too, said the reason he does it is because “it’s stepping back in time and it’s exciting to see the island.”
The island will be open today, but all trails on the island will be closed as the bison roundup wraps up. The public is encouraged to bring binoculars. Admission is $9 per vehicle, each with up to eight people. The park is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The public is also invited to visit the bison corrals from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Wednesday to observe the bison being weighed, blood-tested, inoculated and scanned.
On Nov. 12, a public auction of the excess bison, as many as 200, will be held to keep the herd within the carrying capacity of the island’s available forage.
The auction will take place at the island bison corrals. Those bison available for sale may be viewed that same day beginning at 8 a.m.
For sale information, call 801-209-4678.
Standard-Examiner reporter Bryon Saxton contributed to this article.