The alleged owner of a 1,300-pound bison, which was on the loose for months in the Wauconda area, was found not guilty at trial after he was charged in connection with the animal’s escape.
“Tyson the Bison,” also called “Billy the Bison,” had been on the loose in the western Lake County and eastern McHenry County area.
The female bison was being corralled into an enclosure from a trailer when she managed to escape from Milk and Honey Farmstead in Wauconda in mid-September 2021.
The animal had been spotted dozens of times by Wauconda and Island Lake residents, who took videos and photos and posted them on social media.
Officials said they believed she settled at Lakewood Forest Preserve in unincorporated Wauconda in early April.
In late May, Lake County Forest Preserve officials said they worked for days with a professional livestock specialist to capture the bison.
Matt Noble, the owner of Loose Cattle Caught, utilized a crew of specialists, a drone, a horse and a dog in an attempt to locate the bison.
The bison was located early in the morning on May 25 and Noble “lightly” tranquilized the animal, the Lake County Forest Preserves said.
The tranquilizer did not put her in danger or make her fall to the ground, officials said. Its purpose was to slow her down.
The bison slowly made its way to the barn for food and Noble was able to close the door behind her.
“The safety of our users and the animal has been our No. 1 priority throughout this process. Bison are considered domestic livestock in Illinois, therefore roaming free in a public forest preserve is not an appropriate place for it to call home,” Lake County Forest Preserves Chief Operations Officer Mike Tully said at the time.
Scott Comstock, 60, of Wauconda, was cited by the Lake County Forest Preserves on May 16 with “bring/allow remain any bison” and then days later cited with “bring/allow animal to remain.”
A third charge of allowing livestock in a forest preserve was filed in June. A fourth charge of allowing livestock to run at large was filed last week.
Three of the charges were conservation violations and the fourth was a criminal misdemeanor.
Lake County Judge Raymond Collins found Comstock not guilty in a directed verdict following a trial, which last about an hour on Friday.
Attorney David Spada, who represented Comstock, told Lake and McHenry County Scanner that Comstock was not actually the owner of the bison and did not do anything wrong to allow it to roam free.
Spada said that Comstock was going to buy two female bisons from a farmer in Green Bay, Wisconsin. One of them was Billy the Bison and the other was Twinkle Toes.
The Wisconsin farmer transported them to Comstock’s farm in Wauconda.
When the Wisconsin farmer opened his trailer door, Billy “darted out” and escaped, while Twinkle Toes stayed.
Spada said the transaction to purchase Billy the Bison was never completed and there was no paperwork.
Spada said the Wisconsin farmer is the one who allowed the animal to escape, not Comstock.
“My client is happy the bison is safe and no harm came to the bison,” Spada said, adding that the bison “brought a lot of people in Lake County together.”
Noble, the professional livestock specialist, requested $2,800 for capturing the bison and over $4,500 for the costs of housing the animal for several months.
Noble, who was retained by the Lake County Forest Preserves, had no contract with the county and never agreed on how much he was going to get paid for the ordeal, according to Spada.
The bison was not returned to Comstock after it was captured because Noble required Comstock to prove he owned the animal and also pay the $2,800, Spada said.
A judge ordered Noble to continue caring for the captured bison during the pending court case.
Billy the Bison has since been released to the Forest County Potawatomi Reservation in Wisconsin after the court allowed the transfer to occur.