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Videos: Bison Herd Escapes N.H. Farm, Roams Two Communities

  • A herd of buffalo escaped from a Gilford farm and were seen in the Route 3/Route 11 bypass area Tuesday afternoon.

  • The bison of Bolduc Farm are seen on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Armand Bolduc, 78, of Gilford visits his pasture to count his bison after a number of the animals escaped Bolduc Farm earlier in the day on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Armand Bolduc, 78, of Gilford visits his pasture to count his bison after a number of the animals escaped Bolduc Farm earlier in the day on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Armand Bolduc, 78, of Gilford visits his pasture to count his bison after a number of the animals escaped Bolduc Farm earlier in the day on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The bison of Bolduc Farm are seen on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The bison of Bolduc Farm are seen on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Concord Monitor
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

For the bison at Bolduc Farm, their home on the range is usually confined to 340 acres of pasture and woods in Gilford, N.H.

That is, until Tuesday morning, when about 14 of Armand Bolduc’s herd of 25 bulls, cows and calves decided it was time to escape by mowing down a fence in the wooded area of the farm.

What followed next was a roughly seven-hour chase through the woods and neighborhoods of Gilford and Laconia, N.H., well-documented by residents who were a little too delighted to be treated to a New Hampshire version of the Running of the Bulls.

Bolduc, 78, for his part, had some discouraging words for his herd of bison, which are often mistakenly called buffalo.

“The minute they saw me — because they know who I am — they knew they were in trouble,” Bolduc said, who first learned of his bison’s escape at 11:30 a.m. via a phone call from Gilford police, and discovered them on the lam on Sleeper Hill Road. “I started hollering at them, and they turned and went into the woods.”

The first half of the day, Bolduc said his herd made it all the way to Union Avenue in Laconia, a main thoroughfare known for heavy traffic. Aided by Gilford, Laconia and state police, he managed to wrangle them back to Morrill Street in a couple of hours.

As he approached the barn, he realized he was in luck — only part of his herd had escaped, and the leader, a female, had decided to stay at the barn instead of going on the lam.

“They left without her, so they didn’t know what to do — they were just walking from field to field,” Bolduc said.

It would seem all would be well soon. But, as the renegade bison came within 150 feet of the farm, the spirit took the herd again, and into the woods and out of the pasture they went.

“I was ready to get my rifle and start popping them off,” Bolduc said.

Meanwhile, residents, who saw the bison ranging around the Route 11A bypass and Gilford Avenue area, seemed to be mostly delighted with the animals’ escapades.

The Gilford police first alerted the public to the bison’s presence on the road around 2 p.m. via their Facebook page. That post quickly generated hundreds of reactions, comments and shares from locals who know and love the bison herd.

Courtney Smith Schwartzkopf, who lives two doors down from Bolduc Farm on Morrill Street in Gilford, where she said the animals escaped from, called it “amazing” to see the animals out and about.

“We saw them run back through our backyard it was unbelievable,” she wrote via Facebook.

Locals were shocked to see the herd running about, posting dozens of photos of the herd in various locations. Margaret Marceau, of Gilford, took a video of the herd running in front of her car on Gilford Avenue heading toward Laconia after she had seen them earlier on Stark Street in Laconia.

“I was surprised to see that they were not home and going in the wrong direction,” Marceau wrote via Facebook’s messaging service.

Bolduc said at one point, he lost his herd. Worn out, he returned home, exhausted by the heat and the length of the chase. But around 5 p.m., he realized his herd had returned, as beat as he was. Standing on the second floor of his barn, he counted once, twice, maybe 15 times before he was certain all 25 of his buffalo had come home.

“They realized there was nothing out there for them,” he said.

After a few minutes, the herd laid down, too tired — or, Bolduc thinks, ashamed — to even eat.

They must have known they did some thing wrong, because I was banging a grain bucket near the fence, and they kept looking, and none of them would come near me,” he said.

At the end of the day, Bolduc is glad his herd is home safely with just a few scratches. He noted the situation could have gone a lot worse; bison are fast, and territorial, and sometimes mean.

“When you set foot in their field, you better be prepared to run 45 miles per hour,” he said.

But does he know what caused his herd to bust through the fence? Bolduc admits that will probably remain a mystery.

“They don’t like the heat, so around 9:30-10 (a.m.) they usually go down to the woods and lay down for the day,” Bolduc said. “Today, I guess they decided to do something different.”