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Special kids get close-up view of Antelope Island buffalo herd

It was a special event for special kids.

Approximately 100 physically and mentally challenged children from the Davis, Weber and Ogden school districts converged here Wednesday morning for the fourth annual Children's Bison Roundup.The event precedes this weekend's 11th annual general Bison Roundup. Some 450 cowboys and cowgirls will herd 600 bison Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., into the holding corral for their annual checkup and vac-cin-a-tions.

Wednesday's preliminary event, a warmup for this weekend, gave the challenged children a chance to see close up what they relate to best - animals.

"These special kids really connect with the animals," said park ranger Ann Evans, who is in charge of interpretive education programs here.

Because of his poor vision, Cory Oman, 6, Canyon View Elementary School of the Weber School District in Ogden, stood right next to a caged buffalo getting his shots.

First, Oman blew kisses to the bison. Then he asked, "Will he hit me?" as the large animal kicked the cage.

These children were of few words, but they had big smiles and lots of emotion as they enjoyed a rare field trip.

Matthew Burley, 10, Clinton, was very impressed with the beasts.

"Can I take a buffalo home?" he asked several different adults.

He'd ask each person individually - some of them strangers - holding him or her by the hand to get attention first.

"What will you feed him?" he was asked by one adult.

"Bologna," he replied, sincerely.

Matthew was disappointed when his teacher explained to him that a buffalo would not even fit in their school bus.

Wheelchair-bound Dustin Briscoe of Layton's Adams Elementary School was in awe of the bison but was frightened by the noise as the animals kicked their metal cages. He preferred to keep a safe distance.

"I see buffalo. They ran down there," classmate Wyatt Rasmussen said, especially enjoying their gallop after they were released from the cage.

"This is a fabulous event," said Fred Hayes, project leader with the Utah Division of Wildlife. "There's not a better way for them to spend a day."

Cook Elementary School principal Don Holt said his Syracuse students were very excited to be there. Some parents accompanied their children.

Head park ranger Tim Smith, along with Davis County Sheriff Rob Davis, were on hand to provide the muscle to lift wheelchairs and kids them into the wagons.

Smith said although this weekend is the general roundup, the best time to see the buffalo is actually Oct. 31-Nov. 4. He said rounding up the 600-plus bison over 40 square miles of rugged terrain makes it difficult to predict when the public can see the buffalo. But next week the bison will be in the corral, so it's a sure bet that they can be seen.

- To reach Antelope Island, take I-15 exit 335 (Syracuse-Freeport) and go west on Antelope Drive. The park entrance fee is $6 per vehicle or $2.50 for bicycles and walk-ins. For more information, call 773-2941.