Baltimore's accidental 'running of the bull' after 725kg Angus escapes


  • Animals
  • Sunday, 13 Oct 2019

An escaped Angus breeding bull crosses North Warwick Avenue near Coppin State University after being shot with several tranquilliser darts. The bull eventually went down a couple blocks later and was loaded into a trailer.

When Maryland Zoo officials in the US got a phone call from Baltimore police asking for help to corral a loose bull in the city, they didn’t think twice. To them, it was just another day.

“It’s unusual for the police, but not unusual for us,” said Karl Kranz, the zoo’s chief operating officer. “We regularly train for this in the zoo, in case one of our own animals escapes.”

It took one veterinarian, two veterinary technicians, two animal department managers and Kranz to take down the 725kg purebred Angus. The bull was on its way back to Hedgeapple Farm in Frederick County after breeding at another farm.

Owner Scott Barao said the bull must’ve been agitated in the back of the truck and hit the door “just right” while they were stopped at a stoplight. He began his mad dash just after 3pm, and police worked for hours trying to contain the bull, but nothing worked. So they called the zoo.

Barao begged police to not shoot the animal unless it was absolutely necessary. He said the farm paid US$5,000 (RM21,000) for “Bull #33” but he is “priceless in terms of his genetics for us in our breeding programme”.

The bull was in the middle of a 4ha field on the edge of Coppin State University’s campus, making it difficult to contain him. A zoo veterinarian decided that the only way to safely remove the animal was to tranquillise it. It took three darts to immobilise the bull.

“It took a little while for him to fall asleep,” Kranz said. “The animal had been loose for a while and was hyped up, so sometimes it takes more time for the drugs to take effect if they’re excited.”

Bull
It took three tranquilliser darts to immobilise “Bull #33”.

Bull
The 725kg purebred finally succumbs, without being killed by the cops.

After Bull #33 was tranquilised, he was taken back to the zoo to be given more medicine. Barao said the animal is “recovering slowly but well”. The bull is the third this year, and at least the seventh since 2014, to make a run for freedom in Baltimore.

While it might not have been an unusual situation for zoo staff members, it was out of the ordinary that they responded. In past escapes, other bulls have been shot dead by police. Here’s what has happened before when other bulls got loose in the city:

Why hasn’t the zoo responded to the other bull escapees this year?

They were never called in to help because police were able to handle it. The other animals also weren’t privately owned. Most of the escapes have been traced to (a slaughterhouse) in Baltimore. The bull in this escape was a purebred Angus used for breeding. The farm’s executive director described the animal as “expensive”. Kranz said he told police he didn’t want the bull shot unless all other options had been exhausted.

Who does respond?

Baltimore police officers have responded to all of the escaped bulls so far. And if they feel that they need more help, they call the zoo.

OK, but why is the zoo called instead of animal control?

Animal control isn’t equipped to deal with animals of this size, department spokesman D’Paul S. Nibber said. The largest animals they usually deal with are deer, so they are not equipped with the proper drugs or expertise to handle animals the size of Bull #33.

Does this happen anywhere else?

New York has had its fair share of bulls on the run. Two years ago in New York City, a bull ran loose in Queens. It was the third time in 14 months a cow or bull ran through the city, according to National Public Radio (NPR). In 2016, The New York Times reported that comedian Jon Stewart rescued a bovine and brought it to a farm sanctuary. – Tribune News Service/The Baltimore Sun


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