Mayor Dwight Livingston
Police found no criminal wrongdoing in the Jan. 28 shooting of a bull bison at North Platte’s Cody Park, Mayor Dwight Livingston announced at a press conference Monday.
Livingston said he ordered a police investigation into the shooting that began the day after the shooting occurred. He said he didn’t know ahead of time that the bull would be shot.
The investigation was finished late Thursday and the findings were turned over to City Attorney Doug Stack, who reviewed them for criminal activity.
Stack said that firing a gun in the city limits, even a high-powered 30.06 rifle, is permitted when carrying out authorized city business, the mayor said.
Park officials faced an unusual situation – the first time a buffalo had been removed from the bison herd since the animals arrived at the park in September 2009. Livingston said it might have been better handled.
The bull was fully mature and potentially dangerous, he said. It had lived in the park for longer than four years and was two-years-old when it arrived.
The park staff is already drafting a policy for handling and care of the park animals, which also include llama, elk and three species of deer in addition to bison, Livingston said.
The new procedures will “formalize the process of what we’ve done in the past,” he said.
The police investigation turned up most of the information that the Bulletin reported Friday from our investigation (see related report on this website.)
The city investigation found:
• Around Jan. 20, the 1,675 bull buffalo broke out of the secure enclosure designed for the herd, allowing him as well as a bull calf to roam the wider area of the enclosure near the pond. That created concern for the well-being of other animals and park personnel.
• Jason Trimble, who raises buffalo, was consulted about a week before the buffalo was killed about the best way to remove him.
• Trimble said due to the size of the bull, the lack of heavy-duty equipment needed to secure, load and haul the bull away, as well as the safety of the people involved, the bull needed to be “harvested.” At that point, the city decided to sell the bull to Trimble.
• If the bull were tranqualized, it could not be butchered for human consumption for at least 30 days, Trimble told the city, Livingston said.
• The bull was shot with a 30.06 rifle in the head around 7:15 a.m. under the supervision of park officials.
• The first shot did not knock the bull down. A second shot did, Livingston said as he explained the findings.
• The bull carcass was loaded on a pickup. It left the park by 8 a.m. and was hauled directly to Paxton where it was weighed and butchered. Trimble paid the city $1.85 a pound for the 1,675 pound bull, a total amount of $3,100.
He said employees saw no cars in that area of the park at the time of the shooting, and saw three cars after 8 a.m.
During discussion, Livingston said Trimble brought the check to the city public service department later that day.
He also said the bull's head was too wide for the chute that it would have to pass through before loading.
After discussing the official findings, Livingston said Trimble had shot nearly 15 other bison for himself and other producers. Trimble told city officials that he plans to use all the meat himself.
City councilman Larry Campbell attended the press conference. Afterwards, he told the Bulletin he sees no need for the council to formally discuss the findings.
Campbell said the mayor did the right thing to have the police handle the investigation.
Livingston said the results of the investigation were sent Monday to city council members. He doesn’t expect the shooting to be formally discussed as an agenda item by the council, but the council would review new procedures on the care of park animals, after the procedures are drafted.
Councilman Brook Baker told the Bulletin later Monday that he would like to see the shooting openly discussed at a council meeting, although he didn't think it would be on the agenda.
"It's the public's right to know," Baker said.