'We regularly train for this’: Behind the scenes of Baltimore’s latest bull escape

A bull that escaped from a truck and was loose in West Baltimore was tranquilized and brought back into captivity.

When Maryland Zoo officials got a phone call Wednesday afternoon from Baltimore Police asking for help to corral a loose bull in the city, they didn’t think twice.

To them, it was just another day.


“It’s unusual for the police but not unusual for us,” said Karl Kranz, the zoo’s chief operating officer. “We regularly train for this in the zoo in case one of our own animals escapes.”

It took one veterinarian, two veterinary technicians, two animal department managers and Kranz to take down the 1,600-pound purebred Angus bull.


The bull was on his way back to Hedgeapple Farm in Frederick County after breeding at a farm just east of the city. Owner Scott Barao said the bull must have become agitated in the back of the truck and hit the door “just right” while they were at a stoplight in West Baltimore. Then, his mad dash began just after 3 p.m.

Police worked for several hours trying to contain the bull, but nothing worked. So they called the zoo for help.

Barao begged police to not shoot the bull unless it was absolutely necessary. He said the farm paid $5,000 for “Bull #33” but he is “priceless in terms of his genetics for us in our breeding program.”

The bull was in the middle of a 10-acre field on the edge of Coppin State University’s campus, making it difficult to contain him. A zoo veterinarian decided that the only way to safely remove the bull was to tranquilize it. It took three darts to immobilize the bull.


“It took a little while for him to fall asleep,” Kranz said. “The animal had been loose for a while and was hyped up, so sometimes it takes more time for the drugs to take effect if they’re excited.”

After Bull #33 was tranquilized, he was taken back to the zoo to be given more medicine. Barao said the bull is “recovering slowly but well." He hopes his prize bull will be up and moving by tonight.

The bull is the third this year, and at least the seventh since 2014, to make a run for freedom in West Baltimore.

While it might not have been an unusual situation for zoo staff members, it was out of the ordinary that they responded. In past escapes other bulls have been shot dead by police.

Here’s what has happened before when other bulls got loose in the city:

Why hasn’t the zoo responded to the other bull escapees this year?

They were never called in to help because police were able to handle it.

The other animals also weren’t privately owned. Most of the escapes have been traced to the former George G. Ruppersberger & Sons slaughterhouse at 2639 Pennsylvania Ave., which is now owned by Old Line Custom Meat Co., based on Monroe Street in Southwest Baltimore.

The bull in Wednesday’s escape was a purebred Angus used for breeding. The farm’s executive director described the animal as “expensive.” Kranz said he told police he didn’t want the bull shot unless all other options had been exhausted.

Who does respond?

Baltimore police officers have responded to all of the escaped bulls so far. And if police feel they need more help, they call the zoo.

OK, but why is the zoo called instead of animal control?

The city’s Office of Animal Control isn’t equipped to deal with animals this large, spokesman D’Paul S. Nibber said. The largest animals they usually deal with are deer, so they are not equipped with the proper drugs or expertise to handle 1,000-pound bulls.

When has this happened before?

Does this happen anywhere else?

New York has had its fair share of bulls on the run. Two years ago in New York City, a bull ran loose in Queens. It was the third time in 14 months a cow or bull ran through city streets, according to NPR. In 2016, The New York Times reported that comedian Jon Stewart rescued a bovine and brought it to a farm sanctuary.

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