HANALEI, Hawaii >> A female bison frightened by the on-going, helicopter storm relief efforts in Hanalei bolted into the ocean this morning and was roped and brought back to shore: First by boat, then with the help of personal watercraft and —finally — four paniolo from the bison’s Hanalei ranch who patiently nudged it out of the surf.
The crowd watching from the shore at Hanalei Beach Park went wild with applause.
Austin Wellington, one of the paniolo and the son of one of the ranch managers, has assisted in rounding up more than a dozen wayward bison who scattered after the storm so far. “But not like this one,” Wellington said.
After dropping off the female bison, Austin’s father, Stuart, said the crew was preparing to head back to Hanalei Beach Park to reports of another bison swimming in the ocean.
Around 9:30 a.m., Bomun Bock-Chung, 39, and his 11-year-old sister, Penny Songtree, were riding back from Wainiha to Hanalei Beach Park aboard one of the many volunteer relief boats when they spotted what Songtree thought was a floating log.
“Then I saw it swimming and I thought, ‘Is that a giant dog?’” she said. “Oh! It’s a bison. Her eyes were all red and there was (salt water) crusted around her mouth.”
As a crowd gathered by the shoreline, lifeguards blared over a loudspeaker: “Get back! There’s a buffalo on the beach!”
Bock-Chung said the boat captain who initially spotted the bison put a rope around it’s stubby horns, then handed the rope to a nearby personal watercraft operator, who initially tried to coax the bison onto his skid.
But the panicked bison kept flailing, Bock-Chung and his sister said. So the boat and personal watercraft worked together to slowly coax it closer to shore.
Four paniolo waiting on the beach then threw more ropes around the bison and nudged it to the shoreline, where the exhausted bovine sat down for nearly 15 minutes.
The paniolo, along with helpers on foot, then finally got the bison into a trailer and back on its way to the ranch.
“This is the first time I’ve seen something like this,” Bock-Chung said. “I’ve never seen a bison get towed in on a Jet Ski.”
Austin Wellington said the startled bison had been hiding in some hau bush until it bolted for the ocean this morning.
Jayden Tabilangan has been helping the ranch crew round up bison on land, “but not in the ocean,” he said.
Since this weekend’s flooding on Kauai, bison from the Hanalei ranch of the late William “Buffalo Bill” Mowry have been roaming the area and getting rescued from beaches and the ocean. The ranch had about 100 head of buffalo.