OAKDALE (AP) -- A wild, 24-hour chase in this St. Paul suburb finally ended when authorities, armed with tranquilizer guns and lassos, corralled a trio of pregnant, runaway cows.
The chase began about 3 p.m. Tuesday when Elk River farmer Mark Thompson was driving his newly purchased cattle home from the South St. Paul stockyards. After hitting a bump on Interstate Highway 694, he stopped to check his trailer gate -- and was greeted by three hefty cows on the way out.
As the 1,200-pound animals wandered along the shoulder, rush-hour traffic slowed to a crawl. Police officers and state highway workers arrived, hoping to herd the cows back into the trailer.
A makeshift corral made of a plastic snow fence failed miserably, as the uneasy bovines bolted right through. Police then cut a hole in the chain-link highway fence to get the animals away from traffic. The cows went through easily as darkness fell.
That's when things got difficult.
The cow-catching posse, by then numbering about a dozen, came close to convincing the cows to re-enter the trailer several times.
But they spooked, and some authorities later blamed the bright lights of television news crews. The cows headed into a large tract of woods behind homes in a residential area.
The unsuccessful herding efforts continued until about 1 a.m. Wednesday, when most of the searchers called it a night.
A State Patrol helicopter spotted two of the cows in the woods later Wednesday morning, and the hunt began anew with several police officers, trained volunteers on horseback, a woman from Hudson, Wis., with a border collie, some self-employed construction workers and lots of media giving chase.
At one point, said Oakdale Capt. Mike Grill, the cows were being "charged by six or seven news types. They're chasing them with cameras, cell phones and camcorders. I don't know if they're trying to get an interview or what. It looks ridiculous."
About 2:30 p.m., the six volunteer mounted patrol riders came out of the woods driving one of the cows toward the trailer. Once in the corral, two riders lassoed her before she headed into the trailer.
The riders flushed, sedated and lassoed the next cow out about an hour later. Then the mounted patrol headed east more than a mile to Lake Elmo, where cow tracks had been sighted. The last fugitive was herded into the trailer about 5 p.m., police said.
Police and State Patrol officers said they are unlikely to seek charges against Thompson.
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