New York Calf Outsmarts Farm to Avoid Going to Slaughterhouse

By Amy Tang

After a cow narrowly escaped the chopping block, searchers are stunned to discover she had found a new home with close friends.

Bonnie the calf was born on a farm in Holland, New York. For the first few months of her life, she was reportedly happy and well taken care of.

However, when Bonnie turned four months old in August, the owner of her home farm died and all the cattle was rounded up and sold.

Bonnie could tell by the cries of her family members that something bad was about to happen. The animals were sold to a slaughterhouse.

While the farmers busily loaded cattle, Bonnie made her escape and ran off into the woods.

The calf remained undetected for months and became a legend as her story spread across the countryside.

“Bonnie became something of a local celebrity,” a Farm Sanctuary spokesperson said. “People marveled at the plucky calf who had resisted slaughter, and continued looking for her in the woods near her old home.”

No one expected the calf would last so long on her own. It turns out, she was not alone at all. Hunters set up cameras in the woods, which led to an incredible discovery: Bonnie was living with a pack of deer.

Bonnie had made some unlikely new friends who probably helped her survive.

“Since cattle are herd animals—and Bonnie had lost her original herd—this support system helped her through a trying time,” the spokesperson said. “They ate, slept, and ran together—and the deer accepted her as their own.”

Despite making great new friends, the woods was still unsuitable for a calf due to snowy conditions and neighbors threatening to shoot Bonnie if she entered their property.

Those who sympathized with Bonnie worried because the calf was unlikely to survive the harsh winter. Someone had to feed the poor animal.

To make matters worse Bonnie had become quite elusive and did not trust any human contact like a deer.

Becky Bartels, a volunteer, made it her mission to win the calf’s trust and get her to safety.

“Becky trekked through the snow every day, using a sled to bring food and fresh bedding for Bonnie,” the Farm Sanctuary spokesperson said.

A forest covered in snow on Feb. 13, 2017. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Earning Bonnie’s trust was not easy. Although Becky was not new to animal rescue she had never done it with cattle.

“In the beginning, she had to stand really far back from Bonnie, just be a presence and talk to her,” Farm Sanctuary Director Tara Hess said in a video. “Then she started working on making her way a little bit closer, a little bit closer.”

Ultimately, Becky’s patience and care prevailed.

“One day she could stand right next to her, and then one day she could scratch her ears, scratch her head,” Tara said. “She had named her Bonnie after ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and started just calling her ‘Bonnie, it’s breakfast time’, and Bonnie would come out of the woods and eat.”

For half a year, Becky took care of Bonnie.

“Unlike the first humans in Bonnie’s life, Becky saw and valued her as she truly was,” the Farm Sanctuary spokesperson said.

However, it was not a long-term solution. Becky contacted animal shelters and eventually reached the Farm Sanctuary in New York.

Even with Bonnie’s bond with Becky, and the experience of volunteers from the sanctuary, the rescue process took time, patience, and a few early-morning tries before Bonnie was finally rounded up.

Animal rescuers first had to do some “recon” work, trying to figure out a plan about capturing the cattle. Then they built an enclosure, getting ready for the capture.

For three consecutive days, the rescuers tried to capture the animal. The first effort ended up in failure after Bonnie grew suspicious.

The second try was encouraging except Bonnie fled instead of becoming sedated.

Finally, on their third try, with the right amount of sedative that would not hurt the cow but enough to sedate the animal, volunteers were finally able to bring the “wild” animal back to a shelter.

After eight months on the lam, the runaway cow finally returned to her proper habitat. This time, Bonnie could put her fears about becoming beef to rest.

While it is sad that Bonnie had to be removed from her deer friends, Bonnie is in the company of other cows at the sanctuary.

It was an incredible journey but, after fleeing slaughter, the cow is literally out of the woods.