A small herd of four bison — one estimated to weigh around 1,800 pounds — were put down after attempts over a couple of days to recapture the animals failed.

The decision was made earlier this week to shoot the animals out of fear that someone might be hurt by the animals and out of fear they might reach a state highway or the interstate, causing injury or loss of life to motorists.

The incident began when the four bison — commonly called buffaloes — were able to escape from their enclosed area off Dogwood Rd. from a private hunting preserve.

Cumberland County Sheriff Casey Cox said off-duty Deputy Roy Kemmer — who is acquainted with the preserve’s owner — attempted to help with the rounding up of the escaped animals.

The bison were able to elude recapture and had traveled from Dogwood Rd. to Renegade Mountain. 

“Roy told me that the buffaloes would be grazing and as soon as those trying to recapture them got within 150 yards, the animals would smell their presence, raise their heads, and take off.”

After attempts most of Monday to recapture the animals failed, it was decided in the interest of public safety and because of liability issues that the animals needed to be put down.

Two were shot on Renegade Mountain and two others on Falls Rd. in the Ozone area, Cox said he was told. Cox said his department was not involved in the roundup and was not certain if the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency was notified or involved.

“I know it is sad, but they tried to recapture the herd and just couldn’t get close enough to them to accomplish that,” Cox said.

Ironically, when the first white settlers arrived on the Cumberland Plateau there were vast herds of Plains bison reported in the area.

“Bison roamed throughout the state, in herds numbering in the thousands, following the same migratory patterns for centuries,” according to For Fox Sakes, a wildlife rescue’s web site. 

“The paths they took were so well-traveled that they shaped the landscape. Many of these became roads, which eventually became state highways. The areas where the herds wallowed formed diverse homes for amphibians and waterfowl and provided drinking water for other migrating animals. 

“Bison also helped sustain Tennessee’s then-thriving populations of red wolves, black bears, and pumas.

“Hunters in the late 1700s had no interest in keeping this keystone species alive. They would gather at Bledsoe’s Lick, a natural salt lick in Middle Tennessee, and mercilessly kill bison by the hundreds. Bledsoe’s Lick was home to mountains of bleached bison skulls by the 1790s, and Tennessee’s bison were completely gone soon after.”