The bison bull illegally shot and butchered by a Pryor man on a Fort Smith area ranch in 2014 was no ordinary bison.
The animal was prized for its bloodlines going back 25 years and a key member of a bison-calf livestock operation on the White Buffalo Ranch, owned by Brandon and Tricia Siemion.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Watters of Billings sentenced Tyler Dale Medicine Horse Sr., 58, to two years of probation and ordered $8,000 restitution for his guilty pleas to two misdemeanor charges.
The bison was “more than just a buffalo to the Siemion family,” Watters told Medicine Horse.
The judge called the bison “a magnificent animal” with valuable bloodlines from years of breeding. The bull also was valued for the calves he produced in the livestock operation, she said.
For the Siemions to find the animal butchered with only its head and ribs remaining “would have been a rather shocking discovery, don’t you agree?” Watters asked Medicine Horse.
“Yes,” he replied.
Watters also noted the emotional, physical and financial toll the bison’s loss has had on the Siemions.
Referring to Medicine Horse’s American Indian heritage, the judge said she thought he would have “respected the buffalo."
“Yes,” Medicine Horse responded.
The Siemions, who attended the sentencing hearing said afterward they were grateful the case was prosecuted and that Medicine Horse was held accountable. The Siemions raise bison for the food industry.
The bull that was shot was about 7 years old and could have been bred into his 20s, Brandon Siemion said.
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The bull also was the fourth bison to be shot on his ranch, Siemion said. The three previous shootings several years ago were not prosecuted, he said.
Medicine Horse apologized. “I know what I did was wrong,” he told the judge. “I am willing to pay for the animal they lost. I accept responsibility for my actions.”
In addition to pleading to theft for the bison killing, Medicine Horse pleaded guilty earlier to illegally possessing a bald eagle carcass.
He faced a maximum one year in prison and a $100,000 fine on the theft.
Prosecutor John Sullivan recommended three years of probation and $8,000 restitution as part of a plea agreement.
Assistant Federal Defender David Merchant asked for two years of probation and the restitution.
Prosecutors said an investigation beginning in December 2014 led to the law enforcement finding an eagle carcass and bags of meat at the home of Medicine Horse’s estranged wife.
Medicine Horse’s wife told a game warden that her husband had texted her that his nephew had shot an eagle and that they had shot a bison that had run away from a bison ranch.
Two days later, Medicine Horse contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He gave a voluntary statement that he had found the bald eagle on the side of the road near Crow Agency and that someone had shot and killed it and removed its tail.
Medicine Horse also admitted to shooting a bison near Fort Smith about the same time as when he found the eagle, Sullivan said earlier.
Medicine Horse initially said he shot the bison by Wyola with a .243-caliber rifle, butchered it and took the meat to his brother’s house for storage. Later, he admitted he lied about the location of the shooing, said he actually shot it near a ranch closer to Fort Smith and took investigators to the kill site.