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Note: These cows are not the cows that officials believe could have swum four to five miles across the Core Sound during Hurricane Dorian.
Note: These cows are not the cows that officials believe could have swum four to five miles across the Core Sound during Hurricane Dorian. (STEVE EARLEY)

Cape Lookout National Seashore on the Outer Banks has discovered three cows are roaming the national park, and it is believed they got there by swimming four to five miles across the Core Sound during Hurricane Dorian.

All three were living on Cedar Island when the hurricane generated a “mini tsunami” on Sept. 6, sweeping much of the wildlife off the island, including 28 wild horses that perished, officials say.

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Cape Lookout spokesman B.G. Horvat told McClatchy News Group that park staff spotted the first cow on the North Core barrier island about a month after the storm. The others revealed themselves in the past two weeks, and the trio are now grazing peacefully together on federal grass, he said.

Horvat believes they survived the amazing trip pushed by storm surge. Any farther, and they’d have drifted into the Atlantic, which happened to some of the wild horses that died.

“I’ll say it’s about 4 miles across Core Sound,” Horvat told McClatchy in an email. “Remember, the cows and all the horses were swept away with the water surging back. Who knows exactly, but the cows certainly have a gripping story to share.”

Horvat speculates the cows will have to be sedated and taken back to Cedar Island by boat.

The cattle — affectionately known as “sea cows” along the coast — are part of a wild herd that roams private land on Cedar Island. Cedar Island native Woody Hancock told McClatchy he is among those working on a plan to get the trio back on the island.

National Park Service officials said Tuesday they have set a 30-day deadline for someone to submit a plan to remove them. “After the 30 days, the park will have to deal with it. I’m not sure what the plan would be if the park deals with it,” Horvat told McClatchy.

Hancock believes the cows were swept away when an 8-foot “mini tsunami” hit Cedar Island as Hurricane Dorian made landfall in North Carolina. However, it wasn’t water from the ocean, but storm surge from the other direction, experts say.

The hurricane pushed water into coastal bays, creeks and rivers, and all that storm surge rushed back toward the Outer Banks as the winds shifted, experts say. The resulting “wall of water” hit not only Cedar Island, but caused devastating floods on Ocracoke Island and ripped up sections of the coastal highway, NC. 12.

An undisclosed number of wild horses from Cedar Island were found dead on Cape Lookout after the storm, and video surfaced on social media of one allegedly seen floating in the Atlantic Ocean.

The wild horses and cows roamed freely on 1,000 acres of privately owned land and were tended by Hancock and a handful of others, including his wife, Nena Hancock, and fellow islander Clyde Styron.

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