Bison gores man near Tower Peak

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since the article first appeared in the print edition of the Catalina Islander.

The president of the American Conservation Experience was injured by a bison while he was working on the Island Wednesday, Aug. 26.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since the article first appeared in the print edition of the Catalina Islander.

The president of the American Conservation Experience was injured by a bison while he was working on the Island Wednesday, Aug. 26.

A spokesman for the Catalina Island Conservancy confirmed that the victim was Chris Baker, president of the American Conservation Experience, a non-profit organization that recruits volunteers to  work on conservation and land restoration projects. Its headquarters is in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Initial reports of his injuries appeared to be overstated. According to a statement issued by ACE late Thursday afternoon, Aug. 27, Baker’s injuries were described as moderate. According to the non-profit company, initial reports that Baker was photographing the animal were also inaccurate.

“Please note that Mr. Baker was not taking photos of bison when he was attacked. He was doing field work (GPS/Mapping) for a bid he is producing for Catalina Island Conservancy to create a new trail system for the island,” according to the unsigned statement.

“This morning one of our contract workers from American Conservation Experience was injured by a bison while working near Tower Peak, on the Isthmus side of the fence,” according to Matt McClain, director of Marketing & Communications for the Catalina Island Conservancy.

“This person was transported off the Island for to Harbor UCLA for medical assessment and treatment,” McClain said.

According to McClain, Baker walked a quarter mile out of the area before meeting with hikers who summoned medical help.

“Baker sustained moderate injuries and is currently recovering and doing well,” according to the American Conservation Experience statement.

The Orange County Fire Department received the call at 8:38 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 26. He was transported to the mainland from the Isthmus Pier by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to Harbor-UCLA for treatment.

According to McClain, Baker was awake and alert while he was being transported.

The non-profit’s media release included a detailed account of the bison attack:

“As Mr. Baker was walking down a trail he turned a corner and a bison was directly in his path. He tried to slowly move away from the animal when it charged him.  Fortunately, Mr. Baker was able to walk approximately a quarter mile down the trail in attempt to seek help when three off duty firefighters and paramedics found him and were the first to respond to his injuries. A local lifeguard was also on scene.”

According to the National Bison Association, a bison bull can weigh about 2,000 pounds and a bison cow can weigh about 1,100 pounds. The animals can run up to 40 miles per hour.

A Catalina bison last attacked a human being in 2012. The victim, a 9-year-old boy, was thrown several feet. Initial reports indicated that other people may have spooked the animal when the boy was attacked. Fortunately for the boy, witnesses include an off-duty Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedic and a former Army Ranger with medical training.

The bison are not native to Catalina. A long-held theory is that they were brought over to the  Island in 1923 for the filming of “The Vanishing American.” However, Islander columnists Jim Watson and Chuck Liddell believe the bison may have been brought over for the filming of either 1925 film “The Thundering Herd” or possibly the 1923 film “The Covered Wagon.”  

“For whatever reason, the ‘buffalo’ weren’t rounded up afterwards and in later years the herd was supplemented with additional animals,” Watson said.

The Conservancy maintains a herd of about 150 bison.

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