Help the pigs
Heifer eludes authorities for six hours

Tribune Staff Writer

It was like a scene from The Fugitive, only with four legs.

The escapee fled from captors and police for more than eight miles, running in and out of traffic, giving police the slip by jumping in front of a moving train and braving the strong, icy currents of the Missouri River.

But this was no Dr. Richard Kimball on the run; it was a black 1,200-pound heifer that had escaped a slaughterhouse.

The desperate animal eluded police, veterinarians, animal control officers, media, humane society and slaughterhouse workers for more than six hours as it lead them on a pursuit across the city, risking her life on several occasions to keep new-found freedom.

The never-say-die heifer's escape is one of a string of several animal escapes from Mickey's Packing Plant.

The chase started at around 5 a.m. Thursday morning, when the heifer jumped a gate at Mickey's on Gibson Flats Road, southwest of the city. She then ran up a loading chute ramp and leaped for freedom.

Del Morris, a manager at Mickey's said he sicced his dog on the heifer, hoping to turn the fleeing animal around, but to no avail.

"She wanted out pretty bad," Morris said. "Nothing was going to stop her."

From there, the heifer ran for the city near the Mountain View area and trekked to the intersection of 7th Street South and 10th Avenue South.

At about 9:26 a.m., police began receiving calls of a cow in the middle of the intersection causing traffic problems.

"We thought, 'yeah right, a cow in the middle of town,'" said Officer Corey Reeves. "It was just hanging out in the middle of the road."

Police caught up with the escapee in the 500 block of 8th Avenue South and wedged her between a stock trailer and a fence.

But the heifer barreled through the fence and fled westbound toward River Drive.

Her flight was not without peril. Near the intersection of 2nd Avenue South and 8th Street South, the heifer narrowly dodged a Chevrolet Suburban.

It was a near miss, but not the last, Reeves said.

With police in hot pursuit, the animal sped toward the railroad tracks, Reeves said.

Then they saw the train.

The panicked cow darted across the path of the oncoming locomotive, narrowly missing it and giving police another brief slip.

She then sped across River Drive, near MacKenzie River Pizza Co., where she was nearly run down by a semi.

"By that time, it was a madhouse," Reeves said. "People were coming out of the woodwork to see."

After her trio of near-death experiences, the animal ran into Oddfellows Park. Police were following the animal closely, but trying not to spook it.

Hemmed in by police, animal control officers and slaughterhouse workers, the bovine dove into Broadwater Bay.

As she swam to the west bank of the Missouri, Reeves said, she sank lower in the water, like she was running out of steam and getting swept downstream with the current.

But the cow found a sandbar near the river's west bank and walked to shore.

"She's lucky," Reeves said as he sat in his vehicle, watching the cow pull itself to the other side.