QUEBEC — It took a covert operation after nightfall and the help of freshly fallen snow to round up four cows from a herd of cattle that have been on the loose for months in central Quebec, an official with Quebec's farmers union said Monday.
The four runaways, who along with the rest of the herd have wreaked havoc on farmers' fields, were reunited Sunday with their owner in St-Sévère, Que., about 130 kilometres northeast of Montreal, Martin Marcouiller, with the Union des producteurs agricoles, said in an interview.
"The owner was very happy to have at least the four back," Marcouiller said. "He put them in a barn with a lot of hay, litter, a lot of grass to eat, and water. So, now they need to get used to being around humans again."
Marcouiller said the farmers union kept the operation on Saturday night quiet so that curious onlookers wouldn't compromise the plan, adding that not even the owner of the animals was in the loop.
Union members lured four of the heifers into an enclosed feeding area that had been set up to capture the animals, he said, adding that because of recent snowfall, the cows had less to eat and had become desperate and hungry. Once the four cows were inside the fenced-in area, the animals were closed in and loaded onto a trailer, he said.
The union will attempt another operation in the coming days to capture the remaining seven or eight animals on the lam, Marcouiller said.
And thus ended the months-long adventure for four of the fugitive herd. They escaped last July from a farm, and all previous attempts at capturing them failed — including a valiant effort by a group of cowboys from nearby St-Tite, a town known for its annual western festival. Eight cowboys and a drone operators tried to drive the animals into pens but the heifers broke free and fled.
St-Sévère Mayor Jean-Yves St-Arnaud said in late November that the heifers had caused between $20,000 and $25,000 worth of damage to nearby crops, mostly by lying down in soya fields and beheading ears of corn.
Marcouiller said Saturday's successful capture didn't seem to have deeply affected the rest of the herd.
"Today, we noticed that the remaining cows are starting to come back to the feeding area, which means they were not traumatized by the operation; so we are confident that we will capture them all within the next few days and bring this experience to an end."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Marisela Amador, The Canadian Press