12 cops share their most memorable animal encounters while on duty
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! These bizarre animal encounters prove that you truly never know what you’ll see during a shift
By Police1 Staff
Last week, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy came face-to-face with a pet tiger roaming around a Houston-area neighborhood. And, in case no one believed him at the station later, the encounter was even caught on video. The 9-month-old tiger has since been found after a week-long search and was transported to an animal sanctuary in Texas.
A couple of days before this bizarre encounter, law enforcement officials in Cookeville, Tennessee, helped capture a loose zebra – yes, you read that right – after it escaped from an exotic livestock auction. The zebra, who was unharmed after running onto a highway, was eventually cornered and directed onto a transport trailer – three hours later.
There’s also the always-sweet duckling rescues and the not-so-occasional same-day animal crossings of an alligator and a cow across busy highways. This led us to think: what other bizarre animal rescue calls are officers responding to these days?
We asked Police1 readers to share their most memorable encounter with an animal on the job, and, to no one’s surprise, the stories did not disappoint. If we missed yours or you didn’t get the chance to share your memorable animal encounter, share it with us in the box at the end of the article.
- “I have had to corral horses, rodeo bulls, hogs, llamas, emus and almost had a huge elk climb in the passenger side window of my patrol truck. I was also attacked during a SWAT warrant by a house cat giving birth to her kittens. Fun times!” – Rangemaster Pointe
- “Chasing an emu through the center of town while my wife sent me pictures of it happening in real time as they were uploaded to the internet.” – Bustin Buzzella
- “Had a farm raising buffalo, and when they got bored, they’d knock down the fence and wander into the road. We arrived and since I was the rookie, I was told just to walk up slowly and wave my arms and yell ‘GO!’ at the buffalo to get him back to the fenced area. I tried it. The buffalo turned my way, snorted and smacked his hoof on the road. I went sailing over the hood of my cruiser yelling, ‘NOPE, NOPE, NOPE!’ while the other officers laughed hysterically. Sigh. Good times.” – Scott Morton
- “Trying to help an old farmer after a storm and his cows were out. He failed to tell me he had a bull. Rounded the corner of a brush pile and the bull charged me. Threw me in the air and I landed on my back in a briar patch.” – Paige Pearson Craig
- “Aside from cattle, horses and donkeys, the most unusual (for me) encounter was a bison that had escaped its pen. We don’t have those here in deep south Texas. It was an ‘exotic pet’ for a local rancher. It was a fun encounter, though.” – Marco Castillo
- “Peacocks, goats and cattle, too, but that’s fairly normal.” – Ryan Bowlen
- “An alligator … in Kansas.” – Carl Wilk
- “I just had to capture a zebra last week.” – Mike Herrick Jr.
- “My last call was a Missouri black bear.” – Tiffaney Johnson
- “An escaped kangaroo on the highway. He calmed down once we had him in my car.” – Daniel Eberle
- “A longhorn cow ran out onto the interstate. It hopped the barrier and got smoked by oncoming traffic.” – Kiel Christensen
- “A bobcat, puma (MMA fighter’s pet that got loose), coyote, red fox, several alligators … welcome to South Florida.” – Louie Morcheese
POLICE1 READERS RESPOND
- Received a call from a lady in the evening, stating she feeds her cats on her porch. When letting them inside for the night, she inadvertently allowed a rather large racoon into her house. It had wedged itself pretty tight between the wall and her computer desk. Using a piece of rope I had, along with the RP’s broom handle, I was able to fashion a catch pole. After several failed attempts, I was finally able to get the piece of rope around the body of one very angry racoon, who despite his small size was able to give me a run for my money. I was finally able to get it out the bedroom window, where it scurried off into the night.
I had a mare and her foal loose on a busy rural highway at night with logging trucks rushing past. I managed to back them slowly over a hundred yards back through the open gate. It took about half an hour of horse psychology. I could have never done it without the horse patrol training given to me by NPS rangers, who were patient and always expected the best of me.
At the beginning of my career, one of my first jobs was as a police officer in northern Maine. It was not uncommon to be on patrol and find a moose standing in the middle of the road somewhere hanging out. For those of you who have never seen one up close, they are huge animals. You have to be very careful to not startle a moose when you drive up on one. They have been known to attack motorists who flash lights and honk horns at them. Of course, my job was waiting for the moose to get out of the road while trying to warn oncoming traffic of the road hazard without agitating the moose enough for it to decide to thrash any vehicles in the process. And this was back when our police vehicles had Whelen strobe lightbars. Fun times!
Our SWAT team executed a search warrant at a trailer. As I entered the trailer, I peeled left to head to the back and encountered a woman with a soaking wet ferret in her hand coming out of the bathroom. Perceiving the threat, I loudly commanded her to “drop the ferret.” You know, it’s hard to gain compliance from someone when you are biting your lip to keep from laughing out loud.
During my time with the Detroit Police Department, I became known as “the animal person.” One day, another unit received a run of “car driving NB on xx, with an alligator on the roof.” My partner and I laughed, thinking it was a stuffed toy or taxidermy specimen. A few minutes later, one of the officers dispatched to the area came on the radio – obviously nervous – and requested me to the scene.
When I arrived, the owners were standing on the side of the road, holding one 3-foot and one 4-foot alligator in their arms. The officers were on the opposite side of both cars, as far away as possible. “What do we do?” I reminded them, “They aren’t illegal to own here, and the only state law about alligators is that you can’t tie one to a fire hydrant.” At the time, this fun factoid was true. As of last year, it IS illegal to possess, breed or sell a “dangerous reptilian” in Michigan. Turns out, the owners were just trying to get them “some sun and fresh air,” and had been barely holding them up on the car’s roof with one hand each. I explained this wasn’t safe for the public OR their pets. They agreed, and we sent them back to the suburbs with their charges in the back seat. Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes!
After 39 years as a deputy sheriff and as a wildlife officer in Colorado there has been a lot. The most memorable are a caimen in a kids fishing pond; a mountain lion cub that joined some outside cats for a lunch, including one of the cats; an ostrich that ate my trainee’s uniform cap; a tiger in a 7-Eleven parking lot on April Fools’ Day; a raccoon that got lose in the back of my truck while I was driving through town; and a deer that I hog tied, put in the back of my truck and it got loose. My wife would add a raccoon hanging off of a screen door, an eagle that got loose in the house and was sitting on the back of the couch, and a rattlesnake in the refrigerator.
I was the new guy in a new district and got a call for a camel in the roadway. I thought it was a prank by the senior officers. I cynically envisioned a pack of Camel cigarettes waiting for me. Upon arrival, there was a real camel standing in the intersection. He had gone on a walkabout during a break from the camel ride at the nearby zoo. The zoo folks soon arrived and retrieved him.
I have had cows, horses, pigs, ox and moose. I had a baby duck that made me his mama and followed me everywhere. He sat in a bowl full of water swimming on my desk. The most memorable was rescuing an injured loon. The poor thing had a fishing lure stuck in its beak and attached to her wing. She also sat on my desk in a box. Most beautiful bird I’ve ever gotten to see so close up. Happy to say she made a full recovery and was released shortly after Avian Haven patched her up.
1989, stray cat in an elderly lady’s kitchen. I find the cat in the corner of the pantry. I get a hold of the cat and the fight is on! After a few minutes of biting and clawing, I manage to get a hold of the cat. As I come out of the house with it, the Sgt and Animal Control Officer meet me at the bottom of the steps. Animal Control says, “Dave, that’s a bobcat!” Having never seen a bobcat, I said, “A what?”
The Animal Control Officer started laughing and said, “Yeah, bobcat, as in lion, tiger, bobcat.”
I quickly dropped said cat, and realized my light blue uniform shirt was red, very red! Lots of small stitches for all the bite and claw marks. I now know what a bobcat looks like!
I am still a cop here in Indianapolis and this happened just over 30 years ago in my career. Eric Dickerson was the Colts running back and my beat partner and I were dispatched to an alarm drop at the house he owned then. We noticed a sliding patio door was ajar, atop the outer stairs in fenced back yard, leading to the second story. High privacy gate was unlocked. I agreed to climb the stairs for a closer look to see if the door had been forced open. Halfway up, two large Dobermans exit the open patio door, eyed me and started growling. I launched off of the stairs (somehow) and sprinted toward the “closed” gate, yelling to my partner, “Open it up now!” He did and I actually made it through, just in time. Right then, Eric Dickerson exits the patio door, wearing only a pair of shorts and yells, “What’s going on out here?!” We yelled back, “Break-in alarm Mr. Dickerson, obviously it’s a false alarm, too!”
I have been retired for some time, but the funniest one I had was a drunk driver. When we pulled him over, walked up to the car, he had a duck riding in the passenger seat. We had him step out to the car, gave him the field sobriety test and told him he was under arrest. He asked if we would take his duck home. My partner wanted to call animal control, but he stated to cry so we put the duck in our trunk, drove to his house, about a mile away and put it over the fence. Yes, the inside of our trunk (and the suspect car, which we locked and left at the curb) was pretty “fowl.” We woke up our station trustee and had him clean it out for the next crew. P.S. the duck was pretty calm and no, hadn’t been drinking.
Removing bats from a lady’s house. A rattlesnake call arrived and person was near a woodpile, casually tossing wood and telling me the snake crawled in there. Person said their dog had been poisoned, called animal control and gave heartworm test, which was positive in seconds.
Early in my 30-year career as an officer, I received a call concerning an unknown animal in a house. As I went to knock on the front screen door, I was able to see three woman standing on the furniture looking hysterical. I walked in and one of them said “it” is in the kitchen. She said, “I don’t know what it is, but it is running around like crazy.” I proceeded into the kitchen and laying on the floor was a huge rat. Apparently, it had gotten into some poison, ran around inside the house and died. Gotta love police work!
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