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BILLINGS - People tape up fliers when their pets get lost.

St. Labre Indian School would need a billboard for its missing animals.

The school is trying to locate more than 130 bison that went missing from its ranch north of Custer on Memorial Day weekend.

Executive Director Curtis Yarlott said the bison probably got spooked during a thunderstorm and ran through the fence. They were last seen on a neighboring property on June 3, but the persistent rain made it impossible to round them up.

"We thought when the rain let up and the ground got a bit drier, we'd go out there and get them," Yarlott said.

When the weather finally allowed for recapture, the bison were no where to be found.

The adult bison are tagged, bulls on the right ear and females on the left ear. The animals have been vaccinated for brucellosis, Yarlott said.

Recent efforts to find the herd have come up empty. Yarlott said they hired a plane to search from the air between Pompeys Pillar and Forsyth, which it did fruitlessly four times.

"We don't know where they're at and what they're up to," he said, adding, "Probably no good."

Ranch manager Ray Orthman said 13 have wandered back to the ranch, and he hopes the remaining herd will come back.

Yarlott said the worst-case scenario would be if the herd tried to cross the Yellowstone River and got pulled downstream. But even if that happened, some of them would have made it, Yarlott speculated.

Someone may have rounded them up and taken them to market, Yarlott said.

"If someone did that, I'd like to meet that cowboy," he said with a laugh.

Orthman thought this scenario was more likely than drowning.

"I think somebody took them," he said. "They were tame, they'd follow you like dogs."

Orthman was concerned because he does not know how many calves are running with the herd. If someone did take them, he is worried they killed the 25 or so babies.

The ranch was donated to St. Labre almost nine years ago, and the buffalo were donated soon after. Their main purpose is to provide buffalo meat for the school lunch program. Cattle also roam the range at the ranch, but they stayed put during the storm.

"The cattle are still there," Yarlott said. "And they're not telling us where the buffalo went."

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