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Bison calves rescued from flooding Clark Fork

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MISSOULA – As dozens of homes remain evacuated because of the flooding Clark Fork, a local bison ranch is also struggling to protect its herd.

The Medicine Bull Bison Ranch is located about a mile from the Clark Fork, north of the Kelly Island Fishing Access.

Ranch hand Layne Spence said in the last few years of working on the ranch, he’s never seen anything like the past few weeks of historic flooding.

“Just a few days ago, the road was completely flooded under three feet of water all the way to the end of the ranch,” Spence said. “So this is really bad.”

Spence usually checks on the bison every few days, but since the flooding started he’s been out in the pastures daily to check on the animals and rescue calves.

“The calves get stranded from the moms because the floodwater was so high that the moms swim across,” Spence says. He explains that the calves can swim, even if they’re only an hour old, but it’s dangerous if they get stuck in the fencing that’s underwater.

“So if they get tangled up in the barb wire, they can kill themselves,” he says.

Spence went out on a four-wheeler to pull calves out of the water.

“None of them have been injured. Not yet, but we’ll see what happens when the waters rise,” Spence says.

He can’t thank the community enough for their help and support.

Emergency managers with Team Rubicon will arrive at the ranch later to bring 500 sandabgs to place along the perimeter of the ranch.

Spence doesn’t think they’ll have to relocate the bison herd, but he says some of their neighbors have moved their horses. He’s concerned about whether his herd will have enough to graze on.

“I mean, their grazing area is cut by three quarters. I know the calves can swim, and stuff like that, but there’s a lot of money invested in this ranch.”

He’s hoping the livestock will all make it through.

Anyone living in the flooding zones who needs to relocate livestock can call Missoula Animal Control at  541-7387 for help.

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