Tornado causes owners to search for livestock

May 31, 2013

Victims from the May 18 tornado destruction across Oklahoma and surrounding states are still working to find some sense of normalcy, and for many, that hunt includes looking for lost animals.

The vicious system stretched from north Texas to Minnesota, adding hail and flooding to some of the damaged areas.

Near Oklahoma City, a half-mile-wide tornado prompted an unusually blunt alert from the Weather Service: “You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter,” the advisory said.

Around Shawnee, OK, three large tractor-trailer rigs flipped over, according to KFOR TV in Oklahoma City.

Two weeks later, the damage is still being assessed, and the ag industry in Oklahoma is in recovery mode…recovery of animals.

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) has focused efforts on assisting families, like the Fox family of Moore, OK, to retrieve displaced cattle.

ODAFF Investigative Services Chief Agent Jerry Flowers got word that the Fox family’s cattle were spread throughout the area. Flowers assembled a team on horseback to assist the owners in collecting their livestock.

The herd consisted of 40 head of 600-pound cattle and had just arrived at the Fox property hours before the storm hit. However, the small herd didn’t travel as far as others had and was easily identified while grazing in the yards of nearby neighborhoods.

Owner Jim Fox said the storm left his fences in ruin except for a small plot. An area Fox described as a “small patch left by the good Lord” is currently being utilized to house his remaining cattle. The cattle were scattered over a span of about a half mile and left skittish from the storm. When ODAFF officials spoke with Fox Saturday, he was appreciative of the work of Flowers and the volunteers who helped collect the cattle.

ODAFF continues to work collaboratively with livestock and equine organizations as well as private practitioners, veterinary clinics and volunteers to identify animals and provide information and assistance to owners.

Large and small animals were also impacted by the storm and location of animals as well as re-unification with owners is ongoing.

An important focus of the work being done is recording the location of animals when recovered so that owners can be notified. The GPS location is recorded and will be maintained for reference.

The tornado has caused a significant impact on the landscape of the area and extreme care is being taken to protect natural resources. For animals that are recovered, ODAFF and USDA staff are ensuring that all handling of animals is in compliance with state regulations set forth by statute. The Agriculture Environmental Management Division of ODAFF has worked cooperatively with those handling animal recovery.

Individuals who find animals that are displaced are encouraged to take these animals to the pet triage center being operated by ODAFF veterinarians and staff at Home Depot in Moore. All animals are being placed at area shelters and veterinary clinics so that owners can be reunited. Individuals should not keep lost animals at their personal residence. Animals may be in need of veterinary care and owners will have extreme difficulty locating animals if they are not at area shelters.

Staff has assisted with identification and movement of animals as well as getting animals veterinary care from private practitioners. Owners missing cattle, horses or any other type of large animal can contact 405/837-7240. Equine owners who are in need of any type of resource from hay and feed to housing will be put in contact with those resources.

There are multiple equine breed and professional organizations which are offering a variety of resources to victims of the disaster, from feed and hay to financial contributions. Veterinary clinics and private veterinarians have provided veterinary care as well as housing for animals. Volunteers have assisted in a variety of capacities including transporting animals and providing donations.

ODAFF will continue to work collaboratively with equine organizations as well as private practitioners, veterinary clinics and volunteers to identify animals and provide information and assistance to owners.

The photographs of the incoming animals are posted on Facebook to the Mc- Clain County Animal Response Team, or McCART, page and to www.okclost and additional information can be found at Owners are encouraged to visit the triage center to report their missing pets and to visit the online pages to determine if their pet has been located. They may also call ODAFF at 405/837-7240. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor