The cattle that enraptured a nation are finally home.
National Park Service officials rounded up the three cows discovered roaming the Outer Banks weeks after Hurricane Dorian struck the North Carolina coast and returned them to their native Cedar Island on Friday. It was a two-day operation.
“It took a lot of folks coming together to make this happen, and we are happy the cows made it home to Cedar Island,” Cape Lookout National Seashore Superintendent Jeff West said in a statement. “I am pretty sure they are too!”
The trio is expected to reunite with three other cows that managed to cling to the island during the flooding.
Cedar Island natives say no one is sure how the herd of feral cows came to be there. But it’s believed they are not unlike the wild horse herds on the Outer Banks, descended from domestic stock that were either brought to the barrier islands or who swam to them in desperation during a storm.
Something similar is thought to have happened when Dorian struck.
The hurricane generated a “mini tsunami” on Sept. 6, sweeping wildlife off the island. It’s believed the trio of cattle swam four or five miles across the Core Sound before landing on North Core Banks, The Charlotte Observer previously reported.
The first cow wasn’t spotted until about a month after the storm, Cape Lookout spokesperson B.G. Horvat told McClatchy. The two others appeared shortly thereafter.
National Park Service officials learned the cows were “very wild and very skittish” and apt to run if approached by humans, according to the Observer.
Horvat initially speculated they would have to be sedated for the journey.
Cedar Island natives were offering to help bring the cows home, but it was park staff at Cape Lookout — along with Ranch Solutions LLC and Morris Marina Ferry Service — who ultimately accomplished it, according to Friday’s statement.
The wild cows were “corralled into a cattle trailer” before being loaded onto a vehicle ferry. They were successfully rounded up Thursday, but officials said the cows had to wait until Friday to be ferried the nearly four miles back across the sound.
They disembarked in Atlantic, a town about eight miles south of Cedar Island, and were driven up N.C. State Highway 12 “to their home grazing grounds,” according to the release.
Along the coast, the cattle are affectionately referred to as “sea cows.” The wild herd numbered about 20 before Dorian struck, but it’s believed most perished in the storm, the Observer reported.
National Park Service officials didn’t think that hampered the cows’ return Friday.
“That they were happy to be home was evident as they kicked up their heels and ran down the beach once they were released on their former range on Cedar Island,” park officials said on Facebook.