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Cops turn cowboy to corral cows along Interstate 81

Maryland state troopers and Washington County sheriff's deputies assist farmers in roundup

June 19, 2013|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • A cow is taken to a livestock trailer by Maryland state troopers, Washington County sheriff's deputies and local farmers after five cows got out of a fenced-in field along Interstate 81 Wednesday afternoon.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Cops turned into cowboys Wednesday afternoon as Maryland state troopers and Washington County sheriff’s deputies tried to corral an elusive herd of bovine escapees along Interstate 81 north of Hagerstown.

Five beef cattle escaped through a break in a fence and wandered north and then south along the shoulder of the interstate, frequently disappearing into the dense brush and woods bordering the highway.

The incident started at 2:07 p.m. with a 911 call from a motorist who told a dispatcher that a man was running up and down the highway warning drivers to slow down because of the renegade cattle, said Cpl. James Grinnan of the Maryland State Police.

The cows were from a farm on the 14000 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, Grinnan said.

The cattle headed north toward State Line, Pa., and Franklin County was notified in case the herd crossed into that state, Grinnan said.

However, the cows then turned south and got all the way down to the Showalter Road exit, at one point huddling in a grassy area between the on-ramp and the highway.

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The on-ramp was closed for a time, and northbound traffic on I-81 slowed to a crawl as police tried unsuccessfully to keep the animals in one place.

The cattle proved to be surprisingly fleet ahoof, able to move quickly through the wooded areas along the road. Police officers and vehicles moved up and down the shoulder of I-81 to keep them in sight.

“Go talk to the guys in the brown suits. It’s their rodeo,” one deputy said, referring to the state police, when asked what was going on.

“We’re just the clowns,” said another deputy.

The owner of the cattle eventually showed up with a trailer, as did a man with a tranquilizer rifle, who tracked the animals along the shoulder, trying to get a clear shot through the brush.

The man, who identified himself as Franklin Barr Jr., later said he hit three of the animals.

At one point, Barr sat on the hood of a sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle and was driven north as some of the cattle ran off in a panic after the first ones were hit.

The farmer, another man and police went into the woods after the subdued animals, getting harnesses on them while they were under the influence of the tranquilizer darts.

One of the smaller cows was manhandled into the trailer, followed by another and then a third.

Although hit with tranquilizer darts, one of the cows was anything but docile. Loaded onto the trailer, it quickly bolted — like a bull out of a chute — back into the woods before it was wrangled onto the trailer again.

At least one other animal went through a break in a fence and was contained on a property near Citicorp or Phoenix Color, Grinnan said.

As of about 6:15 p.m., all of the troopers who were at the scene were either off-duty or still on the road, Grinnan said. He was uncertain if all the cattle had been returned to the farm.

The scene was cleared at 4:48 p.m., he said.

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