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News / Clark County News

SWAT officer kills bull running loose

Animal resisted capture; bovine was threat to public safety, officials say

By John Branton
Published: January 27, 2010, 12:00am
2 Photos
SWAT Sgt. Tim Bieber, left, and other officers pause Tuesday afternoon after shooting and killing a young bull that was running loose around Whipple Creek Regional Park, near Ridgefield.
SWAT Sgt. Tim Bieber, left, and other officers pause Tuesday afternoon after shooting and killing a young bull that was running loose around Whipple Creek Regional Park, near Ridgefield. Sheriff's deputies said the bull posed a traffic hazard to motorists when it roamed onto the roads. Photo Gallery

A SWAT officer shot and killed a wandering bull Tuesday after it spooked a rider’s horse, which bucked her off, chased another rider and ran away from would-be captors around Whipple Creek Regional Park.

The bull, which had a hump like a Brahman, was killed after sheriff’s deputies, riders and its owner spent several hours trying to lasso it.

“It wouldn’t let us get near it,” said Sgt. Steve Shea with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. “We were chasing it all over the place.”

He added, “The worry was that, if someone came down the road at 50 mph and hit the bull, people could get hurt or killed.”

About 8:40 a.m. Tuesday, someone called 911 to say the bull was on a road creating a traffic hazard near Northwest 21st Avenue and 179th Street, near the fairgrounds.

Deputy Tommy Green arrived to find that someone left a gate open and the young bull was in an area that was mostly fenced. The bull had long, sharp horns and Green tried to keep it where it was.

Deputies summoned the bull’s owner, a property renter whose name was not available, to the scene. Deputies hoped she could walk close enough to rope the bull, but it was too skittish.

The owner tried putting grain in a can and shaking it, but the bull only allowed her to approach to an estimated 20 feet before bolting. Other people could get only an estimated 50 yards from the bull as it roamed the area.

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Deputies also asked 911 dispatchers to call for someone with a tranquilizer gun, but no one authorized to deal with cattle was available, Shea said.

The bull wasn’t charging at people, Shea said. “He just wanted to get away from us.”

Melissa Williams of Ridgefield said she’d come to the park with a friend, Caitlynn Ralston, to ride their horses in the 300-acre park, which has more than four miles of trails.

Ralston, a Brush Prairie resident, offered to try to capture the bull with her horse, Zip, which is trained for herding cows, and her dog, Smoky, a blue heeler.

In a pasture, Williams said, “The horse got spooked about the bull and bucked her off.”

The bull’s horns may have scared Zip, Williams said, adding that Ralston wasn’t injured.

At one point, Williams said, she was walking and holding the lead ropes of Zip and her horse, Tango, when the bull spooked them again. After being pulled more than 100 feet, Williams had to release the lead ropes.

With the two horses running loose toward their trailer, Williams followed them.

“I was running after the horses, and the bull was right behind me. When he was chasing me I was mighty scared.” As she ran, Williams said, she was waving her arms, hoping to scare the bull away from her. She was thinking of jumping over a gate when the bull lost interest in her.

“It went past me toward our horses,” she said. “I think a bull could do serious injury to a horse.”

Williams yelled for someone to grab the horses’ lead ropes, and someone grabbed Zip’s.

The bull then ran into a vineyard, so Williams and Ralston tied their horses up and shared a snack. When the bull came toward their horses again, the women put them in the trailer to keep them safe.

Next, Williams said, the bull wandered into the woods and trails of the park. An officer walked in to find it and returned a half-hour or more later to say he didn’t.

At that point, Shea said, he called for on-duty officers who are members of the Southwest Washington Regional SWAT Team.

Going into the wooded area again, an officer shot and killed the bull about 2 p.m.

Workers later used a machine to pull the bull’s body to the road, where a rendering business hoisted it up and skinned it on the spot, Williams said.

“It was really sad to see him,” Williams said. “But when you have an animal that large running loose and just out of control, it puts everybody’s life at issue. It’s a safety concern at that point.”

After about five hours spent trying to catch the bull, officers regretted having to kill it, Shea said.

“We wished it would have turned out better.”