The message was clear from Johnston Police Chief Joseph Razza: If you see the missing cow in Johnston, steer clear and call the department.
The town made waves across the state last week when images and reports surfaced of a missing cow on the loose, with a cell phone image capturing the animal roaming around in the night in front of a convenience store.
Razza told the Sun Rise that the day sheet had listed a lost cow report, but it only started to “grab everyone’s attention” once the story began to move across social media.
“There was an individual video recording as it was going down George Waterman Road, and I saw a picture that the backdrop is a storefront down the bottom end of Greenville Avenue, almost at the Killingly Street intersection,” Razza said Tuesday. “It’s concerning to us. We’re working with DEM and working with ASPCA to try and locate it … I think the owner is looking for it to live out its remaining days in peace.”
Razza said he believes the steer’s owner, who is from North Stonington, was looking to sell it in Johnston, at which point it was able to flee. He said that, as of Friday, there haven’t been any concrete reports regarding the cow’s whereabouts. However, he said one elderly woman reached out to say she observed hoof prints in the snow on a bike path.
Razza said officers investigated that claim, but they could not locate the cow anywhere near the path.
“I sent the guys out today to see if they could find anything new and they haven’t observed anything new on the bike path,” Razza said.
The Johnson Police Facebook page posted on Saturday morning that, if anyone sees the steer, they should contact the JPD or Department of Environmental Management “so that an attempt can be made to capture it safely.”
“We are advising the public that the cow is a wild animal and like all wild animals, unpredictable especially when confronted with human contact,” the post reads. “Please maintain your distance, report all sightings and leave the capture to trained professionals.”
Razza had previously followed up with media outlets via email on Friday afternoon, repeatedly encouraging residents not to get close to the cow.
“This is a public safety issue and its capture should be left to professionals,” Razza wrote. “We are coordinating our efforts with RI DEM and the Providence Police in order to hopefully capture this animal. Again, this is a 1500 pound wild animal and the public should not approach and please contact the appropriate jurisdiction if observed.”
The Facebook post has generated more than 460 reactions, 640 comments and 2,000 shares. One commenter said, “Yes, this indeed has been the week for farm animals. Yesterday we also had a horse strolling around in Diamond Hill Rd. It is now back safe in his paddock. As for the cow, many are routing [sic] for the renegade as it made a profound choice not to become someone’s steak.”
Another person remarked, “Must have been in contact with the turkey and got some tips.” One even threw a hashtag “SAVETHECOW” into the comments.
While dozens of Johnston residents may be ready to offer their backyards as sanctuaries – at least according to some of those comments – Razza said DEM or the proper police department for wherever the cow is spotted is better suited to handle the situation.
“We’ll do our very best to make sure there’s a peaceful end to the whole thing,” Razza said. “The biggest thing to take away from this is this is a 1,500-pound castrated steer that, with any type of animal if you’re in a situation where you might try to capture this thing and you’re not a trained professional, we don’t want to see anyone get hurt. We don’t want to see any injury or harm come to the steer and we certainly don't want anyone to get injured as far as the public. They need to treat this thing with respect.”
When Mayor Polisena was asked about the steer, he said, “I don’t blame him that he’s mad,” referring to his castration.
“Where’s Waldo?” he said of the search. “We don’t know where he’s been.”
-- With reporting from John Howell