Cows on the Lam

December 10, 1993

Did you hear the one in Howard County this week about the four cows that broke out of their confines? It took a police tactical response team, several animal control officers, state livestock experts and two helicopters equipped with heat-sensing devices to track down the escapees. Two of the heifers were shot dead, but two others escaped into the woods and haven't been seen since.

It would all be that much more laughable it it weren't so scandalously true. Let us state unequivocally from the beginning that we are rooting 100 percent for the surviving cows in this bizarre story. Pitted unfairly against overzealous officials, the two young bovines are hiding out, we hope, deep in the woods and out of harm's way.

Police and others are justifying their SWAT-team posse on the grounds that the cows had been spotted crossing a county roadway and posed a potential danger to motorists. How much more dangerous, however, are four cows when compared with the countless number of deers that dart onto roadways? And before anyone points to the fact that deer-hunting is a legal sport, no one could seriously argue that this cow hunt equates with thinning out deer populations.

Instead, there may be another reason officials were so eager to go after the cows at undoubtedly great expense. The heifers were in the habit of making nighttime raids on the Hobbit's Glen Golf Course in Columbia, where their grazing was apparently doing damage. Don't mess with golf in Howard County.

The cows' owner, J. Thomas Scrivener, is calling the whole matter a fiasco. With justification, he no longer trusts county animal control or police officers to exhaust all remedies before resorting to killing the animals. Police say they can never get close enough to the animals to shoot them with tranquilizers. Perhaps one good sharpshooter and one less helicopter would solve that problem.

The temptation to humanize these creatures is admittedly irresistible. The owner describes them as frisky teen-agers out on a joy run. Others say that six weeks away from captivity, the animals have gone wild. But what are we talking about here, Bonnie and Clyde of the bovines? These animals have committed no crime. Hunting them like fugitive convicts is a waste of resources, not to mention a ridiculous and humiliating exercise.

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