Cows swept away during Hurricane Dorian were found months later
Cape Lookout National Seashore on the Outer Banks has discovered three cows are roaming the national park, and it is believed they got there by swimming four to five miles across the Core Sound during Hurricane Dorian.
All three were living on Cedar Island when the hurricane generated a “mini tsunami” on Sept. 6, sweeping much of the wildlife off the island, including 28 wild horses that perished, officials say.
Cape Lookout Spokesman B. G. Horvat told McClatchy news group park staff spotted the first cow on the North Core barrier island about a month after the storm. The others revealed themselves in the past two weeks, and the trio are now grazing peacefully together on federal grass, he said.
Horvat believes they survived the amazing trip pushed by storm surge. Any farther, and they’d have drifted into the Atlantic, which happened to some of the wild horses that died.
“I’ll say it’s about 4 miles across Core Sound,” Horvat told McClatchy in an email. “Remember, the cows and all the horses were swept away with the water surging back. Who knows exactly, but the (cows) certainly have a gripping story to share.”
National Park Service officials said they have learned the cows are “very wild and very skittish” and apt to run if approached by humans.
“We are now working on the best plan for them,” National Park Service officials said in a Nov. 14 Facebook post. “These are wild cattle and an owner has not been identified.”
Horvat speculates the cows will have to be sedated and taken back to Cedar Island by boat.
The cattle – affectionately known as “sea cows” along the coast – are part of a wild herd of about 20 cows that roamed private land on Cedar Island. It is believed most died in the storm.
Cedar Island native Woody Hancock told McClatchy he doesn’t own the cows, but is among those offering to help get them back on the island. He owned the 28 wild horses that perished in the hurricane.
Hancock believes the cows were swept away when an 8-foot “mini tsunami” hit Cedar Island as Hurricane Dorian made landfall in North Carolina. However, it wasn’t water from the ocean, but storm surge from the other direction, experts say.
The hurricane pushed water into coastal bays, creeks and rivers, and all that storm surge rushed back toward the Outer Banks as the winds shifted, experts say. The resulting “wall of water” hit not only Cedar Island, but caused devastating floods on Ocracoke Island and ripped up sections of the coastal highway, NC. 12, the Charlotte Observer reported in September.
An undisclosed number of wild horses from Cedar Island were found dead on Cape Lookout beaches after the storm, and video surfaced on social media of one allegedly seen floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
The wild horses and cows roamed freely on 1,000 acres of privately owned land and were tended by Hancock and a handful of others, including fellow islander Clyde Styron, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.