A pair of dash cam videos provided to The Chronicle by the Washington State Patrol have revealed details in the case of a wayward black bovine found wandering northbound on Interstate 5 near Grand Mound in June. The cow eventually died after having three ropes tied around its neck during the ensuing roundup effort, although no official cause of death was ever cited by the Washington State Patrol.
The incident occurred on the evening of June 13 when emergency dispatchers in Lewis and Thurston County were bombarded with reports of a cow, more likely a young steer, darting in and out of traffic on Interstate 5 near the Grand Mound exit at milepost 88.
Responding troopers attempted to wrangle the animal off of the freeway for about 17 minutes, chasing it up and down the road and across all lanes of travel multiple times, before trapping it next to the center lane barricade with the use of a patrol vehicle. At the time of the incident Washington State Patrol Trooper Brooke Bova estimated that the animal covered approximately 20 miles before the end of the chase.
“It was in and out of traffic for quite some time, both north and southbound,” said Bova the day after the incident. “Every time they tried to approach the cow it darted in and out of traffic.”
In order to secure the animal safely all lanes of northbound traffic were stopped just south of Exit 88. Once the cow was successfully pinned between a patrol vehicle and the concrete center median a pair of restraint ropes were affixed around its neck by troopers who then tied the juvenile animal to the bumper of the patrol vehicle. The patrol vehicle was then driven at a slow rate of speed to the shoulder of the freeway.
Due to the angle of the video it is unclear if the bovine was able to walk under its own power or if it was dragged during the police vehicle escort. Although the animal was no longer standing when it reappeared in the video, footage shows the animal’s tail still flicking back and forth in the moments after the escorting patrol vehicle stopped on the right shoulder of the freeway.
As the bovine continued to lay on its side on the shoulder of the freeway, another trooper approached the subdued animal with an additional restraint rope and proceeded to tie it around the animal’s neck. The dash cam video shows the bovine expire a short time later, at which point a trooper steps in to cut the collection of restraints from its neck. A group of WSP troopers then lifted the animal and dropped it in the grass just off the freeway shoulder.
Dash cam footage backs up Trooper Bova’s original statement published in The Chronicle that the animal was never shot with a gun, tranquilizer or any other weapon that could have caused its death or incapacitation. However, the animal was never tied to a chain link fence as Trooper Bova asserted in the original report. Trooper Bova noted that she had not seen the dashcam footage and was thus unable to explain the discrepancy in accounts of the incident.
Bova added that the cow’s owner eventually arrived at the scene and removed the deceased animal. Livestock owners can face misdemeanor charges for allowing their animals to roam freely outside of designated range areas, and in the case of an accident caused by an escaped animal, owners can face much more serious criminal charges including manslaughter.
“The owner is aware and is OK with the scenario and situation,” said Bova in June.
Bova noted that the primary goal for troopers responding to reports of a large animal in the road is to keep the situation as safe as possible for drivers. She added that there is no official department protocol for dealing with livestock on a freeway or highway.
“An animal of that size, with drivers traveling at those speeds, can cause a serious accident and injury,” said Bova.
“Calls like that are pretty infrequent on freeways but we do get them on the state routes fairly often,” said Bova. “This is an odd situation because it was livestock. We very, very, rarely have a cow in the freeway.”
Bova noted in instances where livestock or large animals such as deer or elk are reported on rural highways extra care can be taken by troopers to try to ensure that the animal escapes the scene unharmed. However, she said the combination of 70 mile per hour freeway speeds and rush hour traffic across four lanes made the case of the escaped cow on I-5 much more dangerous and difficult to deal with.
“Our priority is to preserve the safety of the motoring public,” said Bova. “Ideally we would be able to move the livestock, or the animal, and not have to dispatch it, but unfortunately that turned out to not be possible in this case.”
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