Holy cow! Killer cow? Bovine breakout has Bavaria in a stir
By Niels C Sorrells Aug 7, 2011, 16:31 GMT
Munich - Pretend you're a cow. Now pretend the authorities have issued a shoot-to-kill order against you. Wouldn't you make yourself scarce?
That is the scenario in which Yvonne, an Austrian cow sold to a German farmer, finds herself today, in an unfolding drama that has captivated large parts of the German media.
Yvonne was purchased two months ago by a farmer in southern Germany. After being transported to his farm, she broke through an electronic fence and walked about 16 kilometres to a forested area near the southern German town of Muehldorf.
She hasn't budged since. 'Something must have happened to her that she didn't like,' said Hans Wintersteller, who manages a branch of the Gut Aiderbichl animal rescue facility, which has taken the lead in rescue efforts.
The story might have ended there - cows run away often, notes Wintersteller - but after repeated attempts to draw her out, local authorities deemed her a potential safety threat because of the forest's proximity to a well-traveled road, where drivers often race by.
A shoot-to-kill order was issued, Germany's media went into overdrive, and efforts to save the cow before she could be terminated went into high gear.
'Yvonne Keeps Half of Upper Bavaria Breathless,' reads a headline of a nature and forestry website. 'The Tricks of the Cow Who is Sharp as a Tack,' reported the Augsburger Allgemeine.
The problem, Wintersteller told the German Press Agency dpa, is after even a week, any cow would go feral in the wild and start to avoid human contact. Yvonne has been out on her own for two months.
'If a cow is out in the woods for one week, she turns shy, like a deer or another wild animal,' said Wintersteller from the command centre where hunters and animal experts are trying to devise a strategy to catch the cow.
They managed to get her with a tranquilizer dart once, but it was at night, the hunters couldn't track her and she made it several kilometres back into the forest before sleeping it off.
This week's efforts have focused on food and family. Yvonne's sister - Waltraud - who was purchased and brought to Germany at the same time as Yvonne, has been brought to the woods in the hopes that Yvonne will recognize her and come out.
Alongside Waltraud is Waldi, a calf the team is hoping will awaken Yvonne's maternal instincts.
The approach has had limited success. Yvonne came to the edge of the forest in the middle of the night to watch the other cows, but did not come close enough for capture.
'We are staying and we are going to keep trying,' read the latest post on Gut Aiderbichl's website.
Wintersteller's team has also put out a trap with food, hoping that will draw Yvonne out.
In addition, hunters with tranquilizer darts are part of the team, which is in close contact with the two government hunters authorized to kill, should no other options arise.
Dogs, horses and dozens of volunteers have also joined the search. 'We are hoping for a miracle,' reads the Aiderbichl website.
The problems are multiple, said Wintersteller. 'We see her two to three times a day,' he said. 'But this is thick forest with very, very tight spaces. That's where she's hidden herself.'
That means, even if the hunters see her, she's likely in such thick brush that the darts wouldn't make it to her without getting embedded in a tree.
She's also got brains, says Wintersteller. 'She is clever in all sorts of ways. She is so smart,' he says. She does not emerge from her hiding place unless she knows the coast is clear.
At least, he notes, the cow has learned to stay away from a net draped to keep her from the road - which was the whole reason she came under the shoot-to-kill order.
And he still holds out hope that she will come to the food trap, so she can be captured and taken to live our her life at Gut Aiderbichl.
'Naturally, that would be the best outcome,' he says.