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Bison ranch draws unwelcome guests

Someones been living in Tom Eplers RV, adding to trouble that started last summer


When one of Tom Epler’s employees came to him two weeks ago to tell him a backhoe was missing its battery, he thought it was a little odd.

It didn’t take long, however, to learn where it went — the battery surfaced in a broken-down truck that was parked in the large bison barn along Highway 47, the most high-profile feature of Epler’s 407-acre wholesale nursery and bison ranch on Southwest Hiatt Road in Forest Grove.

What they found next tipped them off that the trouble didn’t end there.

Bundled in the truck were bags of bedding and dishes that they recognized from their fifth-wheel recreational vehicle.

The RV trailer was parked outside the barn. A closer inspection revealed its lock had been forced and two people had apparently been living inside for several days, even though it was parked on a busier part of the Epler property.

“I was surprised because there are people near it seven days a week,” Epler said.

The family has been hit with a rash of troublesome — and sometimes costly — theft and trespassing incidents this spring and summer, Epler said. This comes after someone let six of the family’s young bison out of their pen last fall. When they couldn’t be rounded up, all the bison had to be put down.

Epler is fed up with the string of incidents and attributes the problems they’ve been having to their property’s busy location adjacent to Highway 47.”I’m irritated,” he said. “We get that from being close to the city and the major highway.”

The fifth-wheel trailer had obviously been lived in, with garbage collected under its sink, Epler said. Candles had been burned and wax dripped onto the carpet. Otherwise, the trailer was left in good condition, he said.Long before, the truck’s battery had been taken out because its brakes had been removed and it posed a safety threat if someone got it started, Epler said. He’s glad the battery from the backhoe didn’t fit the pickup.

If the would-be truck thieves had gotten the vehicle up and running, “It wouldn’t have been good,” he said.

The Eplers set up a camera outside the barn after the incident but have not yet caught any suspicious activity.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office sent a deputy to the scene, and they dusted the trailer for fingerprints but have no updates on the case.

Other incidents at the property this year have ranged from irritating to costly. Three times this summer, they’ve found clothes stuffed into portable outhouses. A missing golf cart from Pacific University showed up on their property and the Eplers’ own John Deere gator was stolen.

If it weren’t so pricey, Epler would like to fence his whole property, he said. “It may come down to that one day.”



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