Running free

By Karen Blackledge

The Danville News

DANVILLE -- Freedom for two Herefords darting along Route 11, Mahoning Creek and the Danville Middle School grounds was short-lived when they were shot Tuesday by police.

Danville Sgt. Bill Wilt said he and the cows' owner made the decision to shoot them after the larger of the two cows "dumped" the owner while he, police and others were trying to corral them into gates set up as a portable pen.

"The cow broke the metal gate and for safety reasons we made the decision. It isn't one we wanted to make. It was the last resort," Sgt. Wilt said. He added the cow may have injured the owner, Andrew Melick of Catawissa, when it knocked him into Mahoning Creek.

The ordeal, which lasted an hour and a half starting at about 10:30 a.m. on a chilly and windy day, began when the trailer carrying the two cows somehow popped open near Routes 11 and 54. The farm employee driving the truck hauling the black trailer said he hadn't noticed it until a woman motioned to him. Police did not identify him because he is a juvenile.

Paul Peifer, who owns nearby Paul's Citgo on Route 11, said he thought a cow may have fallen in the trailer, resulting in the door opening.

The farm employee, who didn't want to be identified, said he may have hit a bump in the road.

"I had one in the trailer almost but she ran out," he said. The larger cow, weighing about 1,100 pounds, was black with a white face and the smaller one was red and white and about 1,000 pounds.

He was headed to the Middleburg Auction with the animals.

The cows darted more than once into traffic along Route 11 and across from the middle school. They spent a lot of time on both sides of the floodwall along Mahoning Creek, which borders Continental Boulevard.

Police from Danville, Mahoning Township and Riverside who initially arrived waited for the farm owner to bring portable gates from Catawissa. The farm owner refused to comment or identify himself. Among those assisting were Mahoning Township Police Chief Dave Shope and Steve Watkins of Riverside police.

After the gates were set up along the floodwall access, police, personnel from the Montour County Sheriff's Department and others tried numerous times to drive the animals into the portable pen that had been set up.

The cows appeared calm at some times and were on the move running through the water, over embankments and through the school grounds at other times.

A borough employee had to open the gate along the gate to the floodwall so the truck and trailer and truck with the gates could back down alongside the creek.

The cows more than once ran through the creek and through the school grounds with some people, with sticks attempting to control them, getting close to the large animals.

The larger black cow galloped more frequently onto Route 11 than her companion and then darted back to the creek area.

At one point, there was a suggestion made about summoning a firetruck with long ropes to try to lasso the animals.

Danville Police Officer Jerry Zeidler, who was one of the first officers on the scene, downed the cows with a shotgun. He said a call was made about using a tranquilizer gun on the animals but the individual with it was outside the area and it would have taken at least 45 minutes for the gun to arrive. "At that point, the one cow had already trampled the owner and the cows had been in traffic three times," he said.

Regarding the use of a rope and a firetruck, he said the cows became skiddish when anyone got close to them.

"We had to think on our feet and take action to prevent somebody from getting hurt," he said.

The incident drew about 25 people including some students who were outside and others inside the school who could see the cows wandering around school property.

The dead animals were loaded onto a truck and taken to a butcher.

Sgt. Wilt said this wasn't the first time they had farm animals loose in the borough. About eight years ago, there were bulls loose on Mill Street. "They fell off a trailer on Continental Boulevard. We ended up tying them on lamp poles. They destroyed cars," he said. Those animals were rounded up safely.

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Danville Police Officer Jerry Zeidler heards one of two escaped cows out of Route 11 near the Danville Middle School on Tuesday morning.

Montour County Sheriff Shane Craig, center, raises his arms as he tries to stop two cows in Mahoning Creek near the Danville Middle School that escaped along Route 11 near Burger King on Tuesday morning.

Danville Police Officer Jerry Zeidler shoots one of two cows that escaped from a trailer along Route 11 near the Danville Middle School. Police and bystanders attempted to corrale the cows for more than hour before the decision was made.

A group of volunteers, police and other emergency personnel try to heard two cows back into their trailer after they escaped on Route 11 near Burger King on Tuesday morning.

Two escaped cows walk along the levee along Route 54 in Danville near the middle school on Tuesday morning.

I am from Selinsgrove Pa. I would like to say that I am appalled by this article. No one in the incident were qualified to handle farm animals. No one tried to call someone that could humanely move the cattle. I find it particularly disturbing that they actually showed a picture of the police shoot the cow! They said that the cattle were shot because there was nothing else to do but I believe that they did as little as they could before giving up. They decide that chasing the cattle around for ninety minutes was more important than calling someone that could get the out of harms way. Please help me spread the word that the police department is in need of an animal official that could humanely deal with these situations instead of having to kill everything that they see.

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