UPDATE: Landowners say helicopter killed calves

 Photo courtesy: Feist Family
Photo courtesy: Feist Family (KFYR)
Published: May. 2, 2019 at 5:10 PM CDT
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UPDATE: As we reported earlier this month, a family who owns property in Bowman County says a helicopter was flying so low to their land and that caused cattle to stampede, leading to losses and destruction. Now they want justice.

Tami and Pine Gilbert are the ranchers who tracked the tail number on the chopper and say someone from Apex Clean Energy was a passenger. I confirmed with Apex someone was looking for eagle nests for their Bowman Wind Project in March, and the Gilberts say this is a huge property rights issue.

Since then, Tami Gilbert says she and her husband have brought this to Bowman County Commissioners to make sure it doesn't happen in the future. Bowman county commissioners at their meeting on May 7 have motioned to place a ban on wind energy until the August 2019 meeting.

"We're just happy that they are taking time to truly study it and I just believe they are working to get things right the first time around," said Tami Gilbert.

Since my last report, Apex mentioned they were going to reach out to the Gilberts. Tami Gilbert confirmed the company has not yet contacted them or tried to solve this issue.

ORIGINAL STORY: A family near the North and South Dakota border says a recent incident involving a helicopter caused a stampede on their land, and they want justice.

I went to Bowman County a couple weeks ago and landowners say because a helicopter was flying so low, it put their cattle in a panic, and they lost a couple of their calves. I also spoke to Apex Clean Energy who confirmed a contractor representing the company was in the chopper looking for eagles nests.

Pine and Tami Gilbert say the helicopter, owned by Zions Credit Corporation, flew over Eagles Nest Butte on their Bowman County property.

"Some calves went through a fence into another pasture, and a bunch of cows and calves went through a fence here and into a lot, I don't know, it crippled three or four cows hips and stifles, and we ended up losing a couple of calves out of the deal," said Pine.

According to a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, a contractor for Apex Clean Energy, an eagle biologist and a pilot from Alaska were all on board. APEX confirmed that information. The Gilberts says this is a huge property rights issue.

"This isn't federal ground, this isn't state, or county, this is private ground, we own this ground. This is where we calve every year," said Pine.

Randy Feist, another landowner nearby, says the chopper caused commotion on his property too.

"It started south about two miles south of our house, just hovering above the rim rock, flying back and forth, it was probably only about 100 to 200 feet above the rim rock. The pilot was really good he knew what he was doing," said Feist.

Feist said it was too close for comfort for his cattle, and chased them into a corner.

"Thankfully we weren't riding a horse or something, because if we would have been riding a horse, with that noise, somebody could have gotten hurt," he added.

Tami says she spoke with APEX and she says they admitted to seeing the mule deer on the butte, but denied seeing any cattle.

"The mule deer at this time of the year are hard to see up there, because they are the same color as the grass, so they were close enough to see the mule deer, but they couldn't see the black cow?" said Tami.

Gilbert says no one in the helicopter has tried to resolve their loss, and says they're not in the area of the wind farm but are suffering collateral damages from it.

"I'm not necessarily against wind energy, I don't know enough about it. I know it's heavily government subsidized, but I am against three idiots in a helicopter," said Pine.

I spoke to a senior development manager at Apex Clean Energy who confirmed a survey was being done by an environmental contractor above the Gilbert's land. Apex also confirmed it was looking for eagles nests in the butte, for their Bowman Wind Project.

I also spoke to the sheriff who was contacted after the incident, he says it's still under investigation.

Apex Clean Energy told me they have a few things they want to clear up before giving me an official statement, but they are taking the Gilberts concerns very seriously.

I will update the story as I get new information.