The THRO bison roundup went well over a two day stretch. Good weather on the first day allowed the helicopter to drive two of the larger groups of bison into the wildlife handling facility where they were processed and either shipped or released back into the park at the end of the exercise.
After the helicopter drives the herd into a funnel-shaped fence, they are driven down a long, fenced chute by a specially-rigged end-loader and into a circular enclosure. The circular enclosure has a pivoting gate that allows a tractor operator to sort of sweep the animals toward the first chute. My job, along with the person across from me, was to open and close the gate to allow only a few animals in at a time. We found six was about the right number. Only one or two tried to jump out of the chute. The big bull the first day got into another bison and blasted it into the wall, smashing through a 2x12" board. From there, we were to drive one or two bison at a time into the sorting bin, a smaller round enclosure opened and closed by hand that is used to get the bison pointed the right direction before going into a series of narrow chutes where they are finally tested, weighed, and assessed before being released to the appropriate destination pen.
It's a beautiful thing to see the whole system working and everyone doing their job as part of a big machine. I was excited to see everyone working together without arguing and being very helpful and respectful of the animals. While it might be work for some of the staff, I had a lot of fun. It's not every day I get to slap a bison in the butt with a paddle.
Foul weather ended helicopter operations a day early (it's snowing now and expected to be a blizzard tomorrow) but enough bison had been rounded up by the end of the first day that we had enough to work with for the full two days and had culled enough out to satisfy the biologist. All in all, it was a successful operation. It's just too bad it's over; I had fun!