Updated at 12:40 p.m. ET
New Hampshire police had to contend with some unlikely fugitives on the lam on Tuesday: a small herd of bison.
As many as 16 of the massive animals fled a farm owned by Armand Bolduc, busting through a fence in the morning. For several hours, the bison were “scared and running” through front lawns, forests and busy roadways, according to the Gilford Police Department.
But by evening, police and animal control officials had wrangled the bison and brought them safely back to Bolduc Farm.
In the intervening hours, a team of police officers and farm hands had to pull off “a modern day cattle drive,” Lt. Kristian Kelley tells NPR in an email. He says they closed a large portion of a local highway and pushed the bison onto quieter roads and eventually into the woods.
The officers got a little help from the bison’s owner, who was sure to give the animals a stern talking-to.
“The minute they saw me — because they know who I am — they knew they were in trouble,” Bolduc told the Concord Monitor. The paper reports he set out to help the authorities after learning of the escape late that morning. “I started hollering at them, and they turned and went into the woods.”
WMUR, a local ABC affiliate, notes the Bolduc family believes loud road work might have been the cause, scaring the bison and prompting them to bolt through a weak point in their enclosure.
The escape came as a shock to neighbor Courtney Schwartzkopf, who witnessed the initial stampede from her car with her son.
“I just screamed for [my son] to stop because I thought they were going to run right across, and then they just kept coming,” she told WMUR. As the little herd thundered past, Schwartzkopf managed to record the video she shared with NPR at the top of this post.
“It wasn’t until we played the video back that we noticed the song that was playing in the background — what is it? — ‘Road Less Traveled,’ ” Schwartzkopf said. “And we’re just cracking up, because that couldn’t have been more perfect.”
Kelley says he’s just happy the day reached a safe conclusion — both for residents and the bison themselves.
“Obviously we were concerned for the safety of the public on the highway as these animals can reach 2,000 lbs. We were also concerned for the welfare of the bison as they were becoming tired and overheated from the long distance and the stress of the ordeal.”
Still, even in the heat of the chase, officers couldn’t help but marvel at the oddity of the situation: “The Wild West?” the Gilford Police Department posted on Facebook. “No, it’s the Route 3 & 11 Bypass.”
And Kelley sums it up: “This was definitely one of the more unique experiences I have had as an officer during my career.”