Runaway cow leads cops on wild chase in Niles, Park Ridge

Police officers from multiple agencies descended on a tranquil Park Ridge street Thursday morning — a place where the last of the spring daffodils were blooming and where coyotes occasionally come to soak up the sun.

Residents were told to stay inside and to keep very quiet. But police didn’t draw their guns. There wasn’t a Taser in sight.

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Rita Thorpe, 81, knew it was safe to come outside when she heard the mooing. The escapee had been apprehended.

“I texted my kid and said, ‘How many cops does it take to catch a runaway cow in Park Ridge?’” Thorpe explained a little later in the day.

Actually, it took some professional help from Wagner Farm in Glenview — guys who came with a trailer and a plentiful supply of hay.

The heifer, along with a pig and some chickens, came from Northridge Preparatory School in Niles, a little more than a mile away.

“The students were apparently involved in what was described as a senior prank by bringing live animals to the school,” according to a Niles Police Department news release. “During the activity, a live cow escaped from the students and went into the local neighborhood.”

Late Thursday morning, all that remained of the prank on school grounds was a portable wooden pen with straw scattered inside.

“This morning a prank went awry when a group of our seniors lost control of a cow they intended to put in a corral they built in front of the school,” the school said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the animal escaped, resulting in the cow roaming the community. The senior class is in the process of contacting the police department, city officials, and local residents to apologize for this incident.

“We can share on behalf of our seniors that they have secured a safe and appropriate home for the animal. Northridge appreciates the work of Park Ridge, Morton Grove and Niles law enforcement and City officials in conjunction with Wagner Farms.”

Niles police released another statement, saying the animals had been purchased on Craigslist, with the cow coming from near Winneconne, Wisconsin, and the pig from Dixon, Illinois. The chickens belonged to a student, police said.

Police also said school administrators “refused to pursue any criminal charges,” but that they were conducting an internal investigation.

Workers from Wagner Farm in Glenview help guide a cow onto a trailer in Park Ridge Thursday morning. The steer, part of a “senior prank,” escaped from Northridge Preparatory School in Niles, police said.

The students were issued village of Niles ordinance citations and will be required to appear in Niles Adjudication Court. Among the citations: disorderly conduct and animal feces accumulation not permitted.

Roberta Barker got a close-up look at the heifer. She said she was in bed about 7 a.m. when she heard lots of voices coming from outside. The heifer, it turns out, was in her backyard on Beau Drive in Park Ridge.

“I came to the window and looked out, and I saw police officers. Then I got a little alarmed because I thought maybe there had been a break-in,” Barker said.

She watched the Wagner Farm folks tease the animal onto the trailer.

“They told me when it first arrived it was pretty agitated, and then it sat down, and it was calming down,” she said.

A little while later, the only evidence of the episode was a pile of hay.

“It was an adventure, a little excitement for Park Ridge, which is typically pretty quiet,” Barker said.

A Wagner Farm spokeswoman said the heifer had been taken to an animal rescue center. That center, the Hooved Animal Humane Society of Woodstock, posted a photograph of the heifer on its Facebook page and announced a competition to name the animal.

No information was provided about the fate of the pig or the chickens.


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