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A Hurricane Survival Story: Cows Found Alive On An Island After Being Swept To Sea

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When it pounded the Bahamas, hit Florida, and made its way up the Atlantic Coast of the United States, Hurricane Dorian was one of the most powerful storms on record. At one point, it had sustained winds of as much as 185mph and was registered as a Category 5.

Eventually, the storm moved northward and reached North Carolina, creating sustained winds, driving rain, and even a series of tornadoes. North Carolina’s fragile coastline, with its natural beaches, was particularly in jeopardy.

The Storm Placed Wildlife In Peril

On September 6th, the storm reached Cedar Island, North Carolina, known for wildlife, including free-ranging cows and its famed herd of wild horses, with its full force in effect. The turbulent waves of the ensuing storm surge washed over the island, battering it and sending 28 horses and 17 cows out to sea. Even though both kinds of animals can swim for short periods of time, trying to survive during such wild seas poses a challenge for any kind of swimmer. All of the animals were presumed to be dead.

The Miraculous News: Not All Was Lost

The cleanup efforts in North Carolina following Hurricane Dorian were intense and difficult. However, in the middle of all of the heartbreaking reconstruction efforts, there was a beacon of hope.

About a month after the storms made landfall,  wildlife officials from Cape Lookout National Seashore spotted one of the seaswept cows grazing peacefully on the shores of a nearby barrier island. Over the next few weeks, officials located a total of three cows who had made it through the storm. They are presumed to have swum a total of four miles to the new island and were extremely lucky.

If they had been swept further out and fully into the Atlantic Ocean, they would have perished. Such is the fate that may have happened to the other unrecovered animals that were affected by the storm. The cows, however, had a positive outcome. Sure, they were understandably a bit haggard looking, but they were alive and they were eating. Officials also noted that the cows were slightly frightened, skittish of human contact.

Social Media And Mainstream Media Rejoiced

The hopeful story broke quickly on social media almost as soon as it was discovered. Followers on a Facebook post applauded as the cows quickly gained many fans, many of whom showed either appreciation for the animals’ beauty or sympathy for what they have gone through.

Upon seeing the photo posted online, one user, Patricia Willamson Wittner commented “OMG they are so beautiful. We are so lucky.”  Other people viewing the cow’s photo wondered what kind of story the bovines had to tell. Still, others gave thought to the animals’ future, wondering if they could permanently stay on their new home or if an animal sanctuary could take them in.

The unusual dramatic story with a happy ending made a sensation in mainstream media too. Sure, local media covered their story, but so did The New York Post, The Today Show, The Huffington Post, and The Guardian in the United Kingdom. All of the outlets rejoiced at the good fortune that the animals experienced and wondered what they’d been through. They also published pictures of the cows that were taken by wildlife officials and wondered what the plan would be for safely rehoming them.

A Lesson For The Future

The dramatic incident not only captured the world’s imagination, but it also informed them. Wildlife officials pointed out on their own Facebook feed:

As they mentioned, anyone who wondered how animals that didn’t regularly swim long distances could wind up living on islands that are away from the mainland could view this incident as a case study. If cows could safely get to other living locations, so could other species, eventually learning to thrive and reproduce in different places.

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