In 1845, John C. Fremont and Kit Carson stumbled across an island inhabited with numerous pronghorn antelope, which resulted in them naming the land Antelope Island. The funny thing? Today, the island isn’t known for its antelope, but rather for its bison. In 1893, 12 bison were brought to the island. The herd has grown since then, and reaches about 750 head of bison each year.
The optimal number of bison to have on the island is 500. Since there are no natural predators on the island to maintain this number, Antelope Island State Park puts on a bison roundup each year. The bison are rounded up by hundreds of horseback riders so that they can receive health screenings and pregnancy checks. Once they are all gathered, the park’s biologists select 200 to 250 bison to sell at a public auction. This way, the number of bison will not exceed the park’s carrying capacity, and will have plenty of food to eat through the winter.
The horseback riders participating in the roundup are both very experienced riders, and some public riders who have pre-registered to ride in the event. Starting around 8:30, the riders are gathered together and given a job in the roundup. Riders are asked to go different directions to bring the scattered bison to the other group of riders that will be pushing the bison towards the north. Once the bison are congregated to the Frary Peak trailhead, they are pushed over the hill to the west side of the island and down towards the corrals.
This year, the roundup will be held on Saturday, Oct. 30. The public is invited to participate by riding in the roundup or by watching from a safe distance. The event begins at 9 a.m. and will usually end anywhere from noon to 2 p.m. Bring your camp chair and blanket and come experience a little bit of the Wild West! There are two main areas where the public can go: along the east side road or on the north end of the island. The bison roundup begins on the east side of the island, and then they are pushed to the north end where they are put into corrals for their checkups. Visitors can start watching on the east side of the island, and then hop in their car to follow the action to the north end as the bison are pushed up. Once you get to the north end of the island, there will be opportunities for the public to learn more about the history of the island and the bison. And come hungry: there will be food vendors.