Over the years, Town of Lancaster police have answered many calls reporting loose farm animals or injured birds.
“We’ve had injured sea gulls, screech owls, loose horses and cows,” said Capt. William J. Karn Jr., a police veteran of 18 years. “We get our share of calls on farm animals that have broken out.”
Rarely do the calls occur within 15 minutes of each other.
At about 4 p.m. Tuesday, two pigs and three young bulls made their bid for greener pastures in two separate incidents, according to police reports.
First to bolt was a black pig that made its way to a residential backyard on Broadway east of Cemetery Road. The pig frightened the elderly homeowners, who called police, said Officer Brian T. Firestone.
“They were nervous to go out there,” Firestone said. “We were able to get a rope around its neck and contain the pig. Actually, it was a pet that got loose. Obviously, with police officers catching pigs, plenty of people will make jokes.”
After Firestone returned the pig to its owner, he received a second animal-related call for livestock in the road. Again, a frisky pig had wandered, but this one brought some muscle, Firestone said.
“Three young bulls and a pig had made their way across Town Line Road, which borders the towns of Lancaster and Alden,” Firestone said. “The livestock made it difficult for traffic.”
“This is very uncommon, but for some reason it happens a lot when I’m working,” he said. “Last summer, horses got loose and ran onto Peppermint Road. They found their way to the park.”
When Firestone arrived at the scene on Town Line, he found the young bulls and pig grazing on the spacious front lawn of a home. He called for backup – not because he was outnumbered, but because he needed another officer to stop traffic.
“We got them across the road without incident,” said Firestone, who pointed out that the stretch of Town Line where the animals crossed is posted with a 45-mph speed limit. “There was potential for a bad accident.”
As it turned out, the pig followed the three bulls as they walked away from a nearby farm on the Alden side of Town Line, according to their owner, who described the animals as pets. The bulls, he said were “babies” that ranged in age from 8 to 10 months.
“The pig doesn’t go anywhere, but when the calves go, he follows,” explained the Alden resident who did not want to be identified by name. “He just likes their company. He even sleeps with them.”
Karn, the Lancaster police captain, recalled another loose bull incident years ago on Schwartz Road in Lancaster.
“It happened one night,” Karn said. “The farmer came out and sat and watched the bull. He said that after a while, the bull would find its way home, and it did.”
Police caution landowners to keep checking their property lines and to call police immediately if an animal should break out.
“Obviously the first thing is to return the animal to its owner,” Karn said.
“Still, this type of call is pretty rare. We have some working farms, and occasionally the animals get loose and wander. Usually the owner does not know they are loose.”
Why the surge in wandering animals? Is it the mating call of spring? Could it be cabin fever?
“All the farmers are having problems with fencing. The thaw means mud, and if the fence is not embedded deep enough, or if the wood is rotted, the fence will not hold. A farm animal can push it over,” said Firestone, who then offered another reason:
“Maybe the grass was greener on the other side.”