Cow corralled near interstate

A 1,300-pound cow sits along the shoulder of Interstate 66 eastbound near the Interstate 81 interchange on Feb. 16. Officials used a dart tranquilizer to calm the animal and closed one lane until the animal was loaded from the scene. The incident took about 90 minutes. Rich Cooley/Daily

Drivers on Interstate 81 on Tuesday morning were advised by roadside signs to keep on the lookout for rogue roadside cattle.

A tractor trailer transporting 33 head of cattle overturned on the highway median around mile marker 300 northbound early Monday morning. State police public spokeswoman Corinne Geller said officers charged the driver, Derek S. Crabtree, 22, of Dante, Virginia, with reckless driving. All lanes on I-81, she said, were opened back up by 4:30 p.m. Reports from Monday stated that six cows didn’t survive the crash and that six had escaped.

Scott Stickley, general manager at Farmer’s Livestock Exchange Inc. in Winchester, said he usually handles one incident like this a year, but rounding up these cows was a particular challenge.

He said he was first notified about the missing cows at around 5:30 a.m. Monday, soon after the trailer overturned. After readying necessary equipment like tranquilizing darts, he worked until around 4:30 p.m. – when sleet began falling in earnest – to recover four cows, most of them still milling about near the tractor-trailer. He said three more were unaccounted for at the time.

A driver phoned in about one cow on the side of the road around 3 a.m. Tuesday, but roads were still too risky for Stickley at the time.

Traffic is down to one lane on I-66 eastbound near the I-81 interchange on Tuesday afternoon after state police corralled a cow from a Monday morning accident of a livestock trailer on I-81. Rich Cooley/Daily

“The state police tried to stay there well into the morning until the ice melted so we could get our vehicle there,” he said. “We was able to get a dart in her – this one didn’t really want to cooperate very good, it took three darts get her to fall asleep.”

Stickley said the cow managed to walk a ways east along Interstate 66 until the third dart did the trick. Rather than the typical recuperation timeframe of around 15 minutes, he said it took a few hours to put the 1,300-pound cow into a trailer and get her up to Winchester.

Geller said that police were on the scene for a long while trying to keep the cow from wandering onto the road. She said that at one point, the cow walked straight into a police vehicle.

“We actually had to move our vehicle to keep the cow from getting back into traffic,” Geller said.

Although the winter weather kept Stickley from getting to the cow right away on Tuesday, he said the ice and snow actually helped him track the wandering cattle. He said that the driver was taking the cows from Texas to a Cargill plant in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, when the truck overturned.

Scott Stickley, left, manager of Farmer’s Livestock Exchange Inc. in Winchester, chats with state police after the 1,300-pound cow, at left, was tranquilized along Interstate 66 east of the Interstate 81 interchange Monday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

The livestock exchange will be holding the cows until an insurance company gives further instruction, and Stickley estimated the cows will go up for sale on Monday. He said 26 of the 33 cows died due to the crash, making for a loss of $27,000 to $28,000.

If local residents spot one of the two remaining cattle in the area, Stickley advised that police be notified – and not to approach the animal.

“They will hit you; cows are pretty quick,” he said. “The driver even told us yesterday when I loaded them – he said to watch them because they’re fast.”

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com