Animals sometimes road hazards

Tony Bullocks: CNJ staff photo

Horses drink from a trough Tuesday on Curry County Road 13.

Why did the chicken cross the road? In communities surrounded by agriculture, maybe it's just to get back home after some sort of disruption.

It doesn't happen too often, according to local officials, but eastern New Mexico is susceptible at times to something like a stray horse or cow wandering the streets.

"Generally, it's because a storm comes in and spooks 'em, or a fence is knocked over — something like that," said Barry Allen, a branding inspector with the New Mexico Livestock Board in Clovis.

Allen, as well as other local branding inspectors, is usually one of the first to know if livestock has roamed free.

"Typically what people do is they call the sheriff's department. Then they call us and we go out and identify them through the brand," Allen said.

The livestock board has a database filled with information about which brands are associated with which local residents. Fortunately for all involved, in many cases, no government authority is even needed to figure out who the animal belongs too.

"Portales is still small enough to where people will say, 'Oh, this is this guy's horse,'" said Sgt. Kirk Wilson of the Portales Police Department.

In his 13 years, Wilson can recall several incidents involving farm or ranch animals. Like Allen, he said that broken fences are generally the culprit but also added that an animal running free into Portales only happens around two or three times each year.

But when it does happen, it makes an impression.

"One time we had calves trying to get into the Wal-Mart here. If memory serves, it was four or five in the morning," Wilson said. "They were close to the entrance and were activitating the automatic doors. They never went in though and we corraled them in a drainage reservoir to the west."

While cows walking through the grocery section may cause surprise, consternation and maybe fear, more substantial damage — to vehicles and those driving them — comes when large animals get on the roads.

"Although it doesn't happen with great frequency, it's something that we need to be aware of," Wilson said. "In one instance, we had cattle on U.S. 70. That's extremely dangerous. Even small cattle can do a lot of damage."

In another case, the Portales officer remembered a horse running free at 16th and Avenue B around 7 a.m. — just about an hour before traffic was due to pick up on a weekday morning.

Luckily, Wilson said a random citizen in the area happened to have a horse trailer. Not as fortunate was the person who put a rope around the horse's neck.

"We try to keep them contained," Allen said. "The owners generally do a good job of that, but sometimes things will happen."

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