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Bull runs loose in city

June 18, 2004|by Ryan C. Tuck

ryant@herald-mail.com

Lois South woke up Thursday morning thinking it would be an average day, but what she saw from her Garlinger Avenue window was anything but ordinary.

"I looked out and saw that big butt standing there," she said. "I said, 'Well, I know I'm not dreaming,' but who would have ever thought they'd see something like that?"

She was looking at the backside of an 1,800-pound bull that had escaped the day before while being unloaded at Four States' Livestock Sales, Four States' co-owner Jim Starliper said.

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The bull, which is to be auctioned Monday, outran its owner and Four States' employees into Rose Hill Cemetery at approximately 12:10 p.m. Wednesday and hid in a wooded area.

After using tranquilizer darts to sedate the bull, Starliper, police and the bull's owner, who refused to give his name, left the animal in the cemetery for the night. "It was about the safest place for him other than (at Four States') in a stall," Starliper said.

Hagerstown Police received reports of kids "taunting a bull in the cemetery" at around 6:40 p.m. Wednesday, said Sgt. Paul Kifer.

An officer went to Rose Hill but found no kids and a "peaceful" bull, so nothing else was done until Thursday morning.

Starliper said police called him at around 5:50 a.m. Thursday to say they had received a call that a bull was grazing in the cemetery and it was "time to get it out."

Officer M.R. Moats, the bull's owner and Starliper arrived at the cemetery and shot the bull with two tranquilizer darts. Neither had the desired effect.

The bull refused to enter the truck and charged at Starliper, who said he had to jump into the bed of his truck to avoid being hit.

The bull ran out of the cemetery and onto South Potomac Street, crossed railroad tracks and moved onto Garlinger Avenue. He finally stopped at the dead end left of Garlinger before Guilford Avenue, Starliper said.

The men followed the bull using the wails of a calf from Four States to try to get his attention, he said.

In the dead end, the 5-foot-tall bull charged the parked Plymouth Reliant LE of Beth VanMetre of 621 Garlinger Ave.

After denting the front left side of the car, he plowed through a small sandbox behind the garage, said VanMetre, who was inside the house with her 2- and 4-year-old sons videotaping the incident.

"Things like that happen, I guess," VanMetre said. "It was kind of funny."

VanMetre called the police station, after which the bull's owner, Starliper and Moats cornered the animal in the dead end at 9:35 a.m.

Starliper said he shot the bull with another tranquilizer dart. The nearly docile bull ignored the men for a few minutes. Then, motivated by prodding sticks, he entered the van, ending his nearly 22 hours of freedom.

Starliper said the incident was one of many that "happen too often."

On Feb. 25, 1998, a Hagerstown police sniper had to shoot a Holstein that escaped from Four States' Livestock Sales. In 1997, a large cow escaped but was taken back alive. Starliper said a bull has not escaped in eight years.

"We have all the right equipment ... the proper precautions," he said. "The problem is that people assume they're going to go where you want them to but they won't ... they're unpredictable."

Kifer said police did not monitor the bull while he was in the cemetery.

"It's fairly common for us since (Four States' is) constantly having animals get loose ... as long as no one is threatened we pretty much leave it up to them ... but I don't know why it was left until the morning," Kifer said.

The latest runaway animal was dozing in his stall at Four States' by around 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Looking down at him, Starliper said, "That is a big bull."

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