John Painter, longtime manager at the Cerro San Cristóbal Ranch in northern Taos County, was gored by one of the ranch bison Tuesday (Feb. 11) while he was out feeding the animals.
Painter, also a founding board member of the El Prado Water and Sanitation District, was stable and scheduled to undergo surgery at University of New Mexico Hospital Wednesday (Feb. 12), according to district manager Christine Dimas.
"We want to say thank you to the community," said Dimas. "People have really come forward with whatever needs to be done. He's going to need help for a while."
In a statement sent to Dimas, Painter's family said: "We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the Taos community, emergency services and outlying community for their care and concern surrounding the events on Feb. 11. We have been touched by the outpouring of support and appreciate everyone respecting our privacy at this time."
Painter was out feeding the livestock on his own as he often was at the isolated ranch when the accident occurred some two miles on a snow-packed road off of a highway. One of the bison caught Painter in the gut with a horn, according to information heard on Taos Central Dispatch.
Dimas said Painter was able to make a call for help. "Thank goodness he's a stubborn, tough dude," Dimas said from the El Prado Water and Sanitation District office.
Emergency responders were on their way by late morning Tuesday trying to reach Painter.
Francisco Cordova of Diamond Finish Construction Inc. was one of the first on the scene of the accident. "If I hadn't gone out there to plow, the ambulance wouldn't have gotten in," Cordova said.
Cordova said the injuries were the worst he had seen in six years. "The thing about Taos is it's a community where people will drop what they're doing to come help you when you need help," he said.
Chris Medina, head of Taos County Emergency Medical Services, told Taos News that first responders from his department, area volunteer fire departments and local law enforcement responded to the scene to help. Painter was transported to the Taos Municipal Airport for medical transport on a fixed-wing plane to Albuquerque.
The ranch – about 40 minutes east of Taos near Tres Piedras – raises bison for the Montoso Bison Company and has been owned by Alfred Keller and managed by Painter for years. Painter has been working with the animals on the ranch since 1992, but even experienced livestock managers can run into trouble. A large animal can turn suddenly and a person can get caught.
"It was an accident," Dimas said. "It isn't that bison are mean. Bison don't know their strength."
Painter helped launch the water and sanitation district and was elected to the board shortly after in the early 1980s. He has been reelected every term since.
As news of his injury spread, people sent an outpouring of good wishes for his recovery on social media and through phone calls to the district and Painter's family.
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