Loose cattle create driving hazards, problems for deputies

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

MOUND CITY – The old adage is that “good fences make good neighbors.” And while that certainly is still true, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office is finding a new twist to that saying: Good fences make for safe roads.

Earlier this month, Linn County Deputy Nelson Blythe and and his wife, Euna Blythe, were injured when their car struck a black cow at dark on U.S. Highway 54 near Uniontown.

While the deputy’s injuries were minor, his wife’s were life-threatening and she was airlifted to the University of Kansas Hospital. Although her condition is improving, she has been at the hospital since the accident occurred on Nov. 7.

A benefit for the Blythe family is planned at the Liberty Theater in Fort Scott at 6 p.m. on Dec. 17. Go to the event's Facebook page for more details.

The accident, even though it occurred on U.S. Highway 54 in Bourbon County, was a wakeup call for the entire Linn County Sheriff’s Office staff, said Sheriff Kevin Friend.

“That brought a lot of awareness to me,” Friend said.

Three accidents with vehicles hitting cattle were reported over the past two weeks by the sheriff’s office, and deputies worked at least seven other cases where cattle were out on or near roadways.

In addition, 11 of the 16 accidents reported in the past week were from vehicles striking – or being struck by – deer. But striking a 1,400- to 2,000-pound cow or bull is considerably different than hitting a 200- to 300-pound deer.

Drivers are cautioned to reduce speed at night, especially on paved roads that are not frequently traveled, to give themselves more time to react in case a large animal is on the roadway.

In reviewing cases over the past year, Friend found that deputies were called out on loose-cattle situations more than 300 times in a 12-month period.

The sheriff said that, for the most part, full-time livestock operators carefully maintain fences and don’t cause much of a problem. And while there may be an occasional breakout, those operators are quick to solve the problem.

However, some cattlemen may move stock to new pastures without thoroughly checking to make sure fences are tight, he said. And often that’s where a problem begins, particularly where the operators don’t live on or nearby the land.

He said there was a recent case where deputies went out to handle loose cows 10 days in a row.

Friend said it often takes deputies up to an hour or more to get errant cattle rounded up, inside a fence and off the road. However, sometimes they may not get the livestock in the right pasture, which can anger both landowners and owners of the herd.

The sheriff said that, by state law, his office can round up unclaimed cattle, store them for up to 10 days in hopes they would be claimed, and eventually take them to a sale barn to be sold off. But he said his office doesn’t want to do that because it is expensive, time consuming and definitely does not foster good will from the herd’s owner.

The sheriff said he has been asking stock owners to be sure their fences are tight, and if not, make necessary repairs, and not to let cattle into pastures before inspecting the fencing.

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