ORRINGTON, Maine — Even though two-thirds of the nearly 80 head of cattle owned by Herbert “Herbie” Henderson, were caught and sold last month, he still owns more than two dozen other cows and steers, and some of those are running loose.
“My father has [basically] no fencing, and it’s because of that that this problem exists,” Dale Henderson, son of the 79-year-old cattleman, said Tuesday. “I agree with the neighbors. My father is too old to take care of them. They’ve become a public nuisance and a hazard.”
Fifty of the cattle were sold, but when workers, assisted by Mark Hedrich, the state Agriculture Department’s nutrient management coordinator, showed up at the farm on May 1 to pick up the remaining 28, there were problems with the skittish animals.
“The cows got spooked and picked a weak spot in the fence and got out,” said Carla Brown, Orrington’s animal control officer. “We got them all back in, except for four.”
Herbie Henderson was given five tickets in the last two weeks for his at-large animals and improper fencing. Since he has multiple offenses listed against him, the town is asking for the maximum penalty of $500 for each offense, Brown said.
He also has two pending court cases for tickets issued to him in February, Brown said.
Most of the renegade cattle are hanging out in Herbie Henderson’s lower pasture, which is near the junction of Dow Road and Center Drive, but there is little to prevent them from running off and wandering onto adjacent properties.
“The problem is they’re wild animals,” Hedrich said. “They are not used to people, so it’s a problem trying to get them.”
Add in the fact that “Herbie hasn’t been real cooperative,” and there is a roadblock, he said.
The group of people who tried to catch the animals earlier this month spent the entire day at the farm and didn’t catch any, Hedrich said. They did set up a heavy-duty corral in the lower pasture, but it remains empty.
“They’re big, and they feel threatened,” Dale Henderson said of the renegade cattle. “They are just running for their lives.”
Something needs to be done, he said, and soon.
When the cows and steers got spooked, some “ran between the house and garage of two houses” on nearby Stump Lane, Dale Henderson said. “What if there happened to be some kids there? It scared me half to death.”
Stump Lane resident Scott Welch took photos of the loose cattle about two weeks ago and said he witnessed the animals fighting on his property.
“As recently as today, cattle are still getting loose and have been roaming at large from Mr. Henderson’s pasture,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Bangor Daily News on Monday.
“There have been four pretty much out since last week,” Brown confirmed.
Officials from the state Agriculture Department threatened to seize the cattle in April if Herbie Henderson didn’t begin feeding and watering his animals properly, as well as fix his fencing and close off or clean up access to a nearby stream that is contaminated with manure and waste from years of use by the bovines.
The longtime farmer, who turns 80 in June, agreed in April to sell off his herd of 78 or so cattle to prevent the state from taking them, his son said.
Cattle have been escaping from the Henderson farm for years, and Herbie Henderson, has been given animal trespass tickets for the at-large animals that date to at least October 1993, according to court reports printed in the BDN.
The numerous complaints to town officials and law enforcement, as well as tickets and fines over the years, have done little to solve the problem of the runaway cattle, Brown said, adding that is why town officials have asked that the maximum penalty be applied.
Adjacent residents, town and state officials, who all have said they are frustrated by the ongoing problem, say they just want the cattle off town roadways and other people’s property.
“We’re trying to come up with a strategy to get these cows [sold and] shipped out,” Town Manager Paul White said. “The plan is to take all the cows.”
Ensuring the safety of residents and his staff is White’s main concern, he said.
“The sooner they’re gone, the better off the town is going to be,” he said. “This has been an ongoing issue for some 20 to 30 years.”