PROSPECT PARK, Brooklyn —His story lit up social media and captured the attention of thousands upon thousands of people across the country. Now, the most famous head of cattle in the city has gone from a slaughterhouse to a countryside sanctuary, the result of good luck and his sheer will to live.
At about 11 a.m. Tuesday, the dark brown steer, as a castrated bull is called, escaped from a Brooklyn slaughterhouse, according to police. The steer was spotted running up Coney Island Avenue near Cortelyou Road, as well as on 17th Street and a variety of other locations 10 or more blocks away from Prospect Park.
According to one tweet, the steer bumped into a toddler, prompting a call to FDNY medics. Eventually, the bovine ended up in a soccer field in the Parade Grounds section of Prospect Park. It proved to be a fortunate thing for the animal, since the field is fenced in, and therefore kept it away from people and vice versa. The fencing also allowed NYPD officers to slowly corral the steer.
"First they tried to catch the cow in the soccer goals, and that didn't work," said Hillary Dovel, who lives half a block from where the steer ended up, and who livestreamed the rescue attempts on the Citizen app. "Then they tried to corral it with one car, but you know that doesn't work. You just end up going in circles. It's been an entertaining morning."
Responding officers from an emergency services unit used at least one tranquilizer dart to sedate the animal, and other officers penned him in between two NYPD SUVs, with the fence and a stationary park bench serving as the other two sides of the four-sided pen.
There, the steer remained for about a half hour until officers trained in large-animal capture arrived.
Meanwhile, about 120 or so spectators watched, recorded on their phones and commented.
"It's not every day you see a cow in Prospect Park," said Steve Espinola, a resident who was recording the steer and his rescue on a smartphone.
For every person on scene watching, there were hundreds watching online.
"They scaring the poor cow," Barbara Rigable wrote while watching the situation unfold live on PIX11 News' Facebook page.
"They don't know. They are not from Texas," Evelyn Sanabria wrote.
They were among thousands of people who watched and commented over the nearly two hours that the steer's status was streamed live via AIR11 and a PIX11 News camera on the ground.
"I wanted steak for dinner," Marcel Black wrote. "But looking at this poor cow, please save him and return back to where he came from."
He, and most people watching online and in person, got their wish.
Local animal activists coordinated with NYPD community affairs officers and came up with a solution.
"I think they did a pretty good job," said Mary Beth Artz, a Brooklyn animal rights advocate.
She and other activists connected the NYPD with their network of animal sanctuary operators. Mike Stura, who runs the Skylands Sanctuary and Animal Rescue in Wantage, New Jersey, came to collect the animal after ESU officers managed to get a rope around its neck and lead it into an NYPD horse carrier.
"The whole day I hoped it would escape," said Dovel, the neighbor who'd recorded the corralling and rescue from the very beginning. "Sanctuary is even better."
Agreeing with her was Artz, the animal rights advocate.
"This could also bring attention to the animals in slaughterhouses who aren't as lucky," she told PIX11 News.
She said that the as-yet-unnamed steer is better off than all other meat cattle, thousands of which are slaughtered in Brooklyn yearly.
They "won't have a beautiful sanctuary to go to, like this beautiful bull will," she said.