Officials who ‘put down’ at-large water buffalo in Moab explain decision

A water buffalo shown in its natural habitat. File photo: Flickr/Bernard Spragg

GRAND COUNTY, Utah, Nov. 5, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — The Grand County Sheriff’s Office has released a new statement explaining its decision to shoot and kill a water buffalo that had escaped its enclosure in Moab.

An initial Facebook notice posted late Saturday night was vague, saying only that an animal was shot and killed on Moab’s Spanish Valley Drive, near Beeman road.

“Due to a lack of tranquilizing materials, logistic problems, and the need for public safety, discussions between the animal owner and the Sheriff’s Office determined that the most appropriate solution was to put the animal down,” the first statement said. “There were several shots fired to dispatch the animal.

“Appropriate measures were taken in order to prevent injury to any deputies on the call, or anyone in the neighborhood. We just want to inform the members of the community, especially those that were in the area that might have heard the gunshots or observed the law enforcement officers during the incident. Thanks for your understanding.”

But readers of the post did not understand, and called for additional details.

“What kind of ‘animal?’ A dog? A bear?,” one reader asked. “A ferocious goat? We need some details!!!”

The Grand County Sheriff’s Office responded with a post on Sunday.

“We are a small enough of a community that once the type of animal is mentioned, a lot of the residents will know whose animal it was,” the post said. “We ask that you respect the individual’s privacy. Any comments that are inappropriate will be deleted. The animal at large was a water buffalo.”

Water buffaloes, native to Asia, can reach can weight 660 to 1,200 pounds as adults, according to Wikipedia, and their sharp, crescent-shaped horns can easily reach five feet.

Facebook readers questioned why the animal had to be put to death when its owner’s identity was known.

Additional posters revealed that the male water buffalo had been loose on multiple occasions, and was put to death after it gored a horse that had to be euthanized. Other posters said the animal had been close to children in the neighborhood where it was wandering.

After more community feedback, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office posted additional details:

“As the investigation is ongoing, not all information has been made publicly available, however, we have a few details we can now share. The animal at large had escaped his corral and broke into a neighbor’s property, causing for considerable property damage which allowed a horse to escape. The horse was later located and appeared to be in shock with significant injuries.

“A local veterinarian was called in and, unfortunately, the decision was ultimately made for the horse to be euthanized. During this incident, the animal at large was reported to be at several homes in the neighborhood, with additional reports of being within 15 feet of several small children.”

A local citizen asked why the animal had to be euthanized, and if officials considered contacting Best Friends Animal Shelter.

“The animal’s owner discussed containment options with the Sheriff’s deputies, however, there remained logistical concerns due to various limitations that caused for serious safety concerns,” the GCSO post said.

“These concerns were not only for those immediately involved in the incident, but for the greater public at large as well. The decision by those involved to put down the animal was not easily made, nor made without considerable discussions.

“The respect the community is showing for those who were forced to make these incredibly difficult decisions is greatly appreciated, and our deepest condolences go out to all involved.”

Another citizen remembered the animal fondly.

“I always liked seeing the water buffalo when I drove past his home. He was an unexpected sight in Spanish Valley. I heard the shots last night, which made me nervous, so I appreciate the explanation.”

Image: Google Maps

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