BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Lee County Supervisors want a county farmer to get a grip on his beef.
In a work session following Monday’s regular Board of Supervisors meeting in Fort Madison, supervisors discussed the ongoing problem of cattle, including heifers and at least six charolais bulls that are loose and considered “wild” in Lee County.
Supervisor Garry Seyb said he’s hearing that some of the cattle have never been touched by human hands.
“There’s no doubt this is an issue that’s going to have to be addressed,” Seyb said. “All the border neighbors have been affected individually.”
Seyb said his investigations with neighbors in a 12.5 mile circle from Ambrosia Lane to 190th Avenue to 215th Avenue to Argyle Road, indicate there is about 3,000 acres where the cattle are roaming. He’s also been given pictures of the cattle on the road.
One Lee County deputy has actually been assigned to take all the calls on the cattle and there have been 20 to 30 calls in the last eight months, according to Seyb.
The Lee County Attorney, Lee County Sheriff’s Department, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Dept. of Agriculture and the Iowa Veterinary Association have been involved in discussions on how the county can help mitigate the issue.
Township trustees within the county typically have jurisdiction over fencing issues, but supervisors have gotten involved because of the legalities of the “wild” cattle and mitigation efforts. Neighbors are telling Seyb that crops and property are being damaged and the cattle are regularly seen on county roads.
Seyb said he’s also spoken with Des Moines Township Trustees and has gone around with them to talk with neighbors. Iowa code 169.3 is the one that deals with stray livestock.
Supervisors weren’t ready to name the person responsible for the cattle, despite a nod from Lee County Attorney Ross Braden. Supervisor Rich Harlow, specifically asked for the farmer’s name in the open work session, but board chairman Matt Pflug declined to reveal the name.
“We’re not going to share that right now. Let’s don’t go there,” Pflug said.
“Let’s just say they’re very well known,” Seyb said.
Braden said state code does allow the county to get custody of the cattle, but he said the animals have gotten to the point where they are not used to human interaction.
“My understanding is that if you try to approach them they scurry back off into the woods,” Braden said.
Braden said code would also allow the county to erect a fence to corral the animals or protect the neighboring property, and assess the owner. He said the county can also seek reimbursement if they have to take custody of the animals.
But tracking them down may be difficult as the animals seem to be roaming a 12.5 mile area.
Seyb said the bulls are roughly 1,500 pounds each and if they don’t want to be wrangled, they probably won’t be.
“What do you do with a 1,500 pound charolais bull? If you research them a bit they don’t have the best attitude to begin with as a breed. And there’s six of them,” Seyb said.
“You’re also dealing with bulls and cows and the penny game. And you’re talking about something that’s been going on for sure for at least a year and maybe longer than that.
Seyb said the “wild” cattle could range in number from 16 or 17 to 27 or 28 depending on how long they’ve been unrestrained.
Braden said he’s sent out a document to the owners as well as speaking with them directly and said they have taken a pretty “laissez-faire” approach to the situation.
But he said as a governmental agency, they can only do so much.
“Our primary interest is public safety. I do agree these cattle create a safety hazard. They are roaming the roadways and trespassing in people’s front yards. I wouldn’t feel very good about a charolais bull standing outside my front door,” Braden said.
He said the landowners suffering property damage may have to look at civil suits.
Pflug said he’s surprised someone hasn’t shot one of the animals.
Seyb said their are laws on the books protecting them from being shot.
“Technically you’re not legally able to shoot the cattle,” Seyb said. “I’m still looking into it but it’s a real frustration and I feel for everybody Ive talked because I can’t give them a good answer.”
Sheriff Stacy Weber said the conversation is long overdue and an ordinance may need to be considered to give him something in place to help take care of the problem.