By Jean Clavelle
Well, it’s that time of year. Cattle are coming home from pasture, calves are being weaned and sent to feedlot and horse enthusiasts are enjoying the last few pleasant riding days left of the season. No one plans to have one, but accidents do happen especially when animals are involved. And whether you are the one involved in a motor vehicle accident or an innocent bystander it’s important to know what to do and how you can help when livestock are on the loose.
The top 5 things you need to know about livestock in an emergency:
- Livestock do not understand lights and sirens mean pullover. This will definitely not make them stop.
- When an animal feels cornered, it will fight or try to run.
- Livestock view us as predators and their natural instinct is to flee from predators.
- Prey animals are herd animals and become extremely agitated when isolated or separated from other animals. Single animals are extremely dangerous animals.
- Once livestock are excited or scared it will take at least 20 to 30 minutes to calm them back down.
You should always avoid chasing animals as this will only make them more excited. Because livestock are prey animals it’s important to understand that they are programmed to flee when frightened. If they become cornered and feel threatened, they will attack until they are able to escape. The same goes for noise as horns, sirens or hollering will only add to their nervousness. Even when passing a horse and rider on the road it is a good idea to slow down and never honk! Prey animals want to be in a group and will work to get back to their herd. A solitary nervous animal is a dangerous animal so avoid them at all costs.
Of course not all livestock species are the same and they have characteristics that make them unique.
- Cattle have extreme reach with their back legs and can strike behind them, off to their side and up to the head and can kick out to the side when running.
- Horses can strike with both their back feet and their front feet. They can also bite hard enough to remove fingers!
- Pigs can also bite and be extremely aggressive. They are very difficult to move even when they are not scared! They will make loud squealing noises that sound like they are in pain even when they are not.
- Chickens, turkeys and ducks frighten quickly when in close contact with people and react hysterically. It’s important to remain as calm as possible and not to startle them.
- Sheep pile up when frightened. If this happens, back off and allow them to calm down.
Most importantly if you come across an accident involving livestock or a stray animal on the road the best thing you can do is stay calm and move slowly.
For more information on what to do in an emergency go to our website at http://www.facs.sk.ca/animal-care-resources/emergencies/