Cows on the tracks

Three cows were spotted on the railroad tracks in Bluefield Monday evening, halting Norfolk Southern trains. 911 dispatchers confirmed the cows were caught at about 9:45 p.m.

BLUEFIELD — Three cows that ventured away from their home and onto railroad tracks Monday evening were on their way back to their owners Tuesday.

Mercer County 911 received reports of wandering cows about 7:40 p.m. Monday. They first appeared at East Wayne Street and eventually reached local railroad tracks. Norfolk Southern Railroad halted trains passing through Bluefield until members of the Bluefield Police Department and Bluefield Fire Department managed to herd the three cows into a livestock trailer.

Officer A.D. Moore with the Bluefield Police helped with the cattle wrangling Monday night. It was the first time she had handled a call involving livestock. 

“It was a little weird,” she recalled, adding that catching them took about two hours. “Thankfully, we got them off the tracks and kept them off the (Bluefield) avenue.”

The cows came from outside the city. Onlookers watching the wrangling efforts Monday said the cows appeared to come from the Hurricane Ridge area. Capt. Shannon Akers with the Bluefield Fire Department brought the trailer down to the Norfolk Southern tracks, and was preparing to return the cows to their owner.

Akers said that he has a farm and runs cattle, so the police called him.

“They got hold of me and I ran home real quick and got my trailer,” he recalled. “We ended up getting them. I ended up getting them loaded about 10 o’clock.”

The cows came from the Hurricane Ridge area near the Mercer County Airport and walked across Stony Ridge to reach Bluefield, Akers said. The main fear was that the cows would reach Bluefield Avenue and become a traffic hazard.

“Deer weigh a couple of hundred pounds,” he said. “A cow weighs 1,000 to 1,200 pounds. That definitely makes a difference.”

Akers said he took the cows home and contacted their owner, who was making arrangements so they could not escape again. They had slipped through a damaged fence, and had been looking for them all day.

It was not the first time Bluefield’s police had to deal with cattle. 

According to an article in the May 3, 1916 edition of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, four cows were “arrested” after roaming the city’s streets. They were being held “until called for by the owner.”

“There is a fine of fifty cents to five dollars on owners who permit their cattle to run loose on the streets and police had determined to enforce the ordinance to the letter in an effort to put a stop to the nuisance,” according to the article.

Karen Boothe of Bluefield said she came across the article while researching genealogy. She posted the 1916 story Sunday on her websites “You know You’re from Bluefield if, You know You’re From Bluefield When and Bluefield West Virginia.”

“Hours later, I see that cattle are prowling the railroad tracks,” she said. “I thought it was an unbelievable coincidence. My cousin told me I should buy a lottery ticket. Same problem, different century. The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Under the Code of Ordinances, City of Bluefield, except for dogs and cats, no livestock including cows, calves, horses and ponies can be kept within the city limits without from the city clerk and approved by the city manager. Applications for these permits have to come with a certificate of consent signed “by a majority of the householders residing within a radius of 500 feet from the place” when a stable, barn” or other enclosure for livestock is maintained.

— Contact Greg Jordan at

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