Barney, the bull missing since his July 20 escape in the Mastic-Moriches area, was finally caught shortly before midnight Wednesday by the New Jersey sanctuary founder who spent weeks on his trail.
The bull was captured at a former duck farm in Moriches when he went into a temporary corral set up by Mike Stura, who will provide Barney with his new home at the sanctuary.
Barney had been getting accustomed to eating hay from a feed trough inside of the corral and once he was in the right position, Stura sprung the lock remotely to close him in, officials said.
"I don't think he's a great escape artist, this kid," said Stura, who camped for days by the corral and approximately one-ton feeding trough he erected, before returning to his Wantage, N.J.-based nonprofit Skylands Sanctuary & Animal Rescue, where he kept a lookout via cameras.
Barney, who is now at Skylands, was caught in the corral at about 11 p.m., Wednesday. He was strong enough to shift the heavy feed trough in his frustration after being trapped.
"I think he's a brawler; he's just brute force, he is powerful, I've never seen a steer kick that hard," Stura said. Technically, Barney, whom Stura probably will rename, is a steer or a neutered bull. He probably came to Long Island from Texas and ranchers usually neuter calves starting at about three months old.
He appears to have fended for himself quite successfully in his time at large. But, at the sanctuary, he cannot be introduced to Stura's other cattle, sheep, goats and pigs until his blood test results are reviewed.
The area where the roughly 1,500-pound steer ran off posed considerable difficulties for his rescuers, a list that includes Eddie Stepinski of K-9 Search and Rescue, Joe Rocco of The Broken Antler, and another volunteer, Karen Johnson. Stura also saluted SPCA Chief Roy Gross and Frankie Floridia for their efforts.
Dense woods, a river, and the fast-moving, often congested Sunrise Highway were all so close to the area Barney called home that Stura said neither lassos nor tranquilizers could be used. The former could easily get caught in branches or wrap around trees, while tranquilizers would not kick in for nearly half an hour, giving Barney time to run into danger before collapsing.
The social media hoopla over Barney's escape — and then criticism about how long the rescue was taking — led rescuers to fear amateurs might attempt to help out. They were worried some might spook the steer, possibly injuring both themselves and Barney.
Gross, who helped coordinate the rescuers, noted another looming problem: the coming deer hunting season.
"What a great feeling; we are all so happy this worked out before hunting season," Gross said.
"He is healthy; he will live his life out on that farm," with many other animals saved from neglect and abuse, Gross said.
Happily for Barney, the property owner where Barney found a temporary haven welcomed Stura. The escapee had plenty to eat, thanks partly to all that summer rain, which allowed grasses, trees and weeds to all flourish.
Monkweed, which cattle favor in summer, loses its appeal as it becomes more woody in autumn.
That probably made the hay in the feeding trough even more alluring, Stura said.
Referring to the rest of his herd, Stura, who previously has spent weeks or months rescuing other runaways, said: "I can't wait to see him meshing with his people."