At just 4-months-old, Bonnie the calf’s world was turned upside down. Bonnie had spent her whole life so far by her mother’s side, but things were about to change.
Bonnie and her mother lived on a farm in Upstate New York. But when their farmer passed away, all of his livestock had to be sold. The odds were against them; it was likely that they would be split up once they were sold. So one day, last summer, as Bonnie’s herd was being loaded onto a truck, she made a break for it.
Bonnie ran away as fast as she could and into the nearby forest.
The runaway cow’s escape became the stories of legend; nobody knew if it was true. There were the occasional sightings of her but nobody had been able to get close enough to catch her.
Sightings came from people spotting her walking through their properties; others were photographs caught on wildlife cameras. The residents of Holland, New York, became divided. They couldn’t agree on what they thought should become of Bonnie.
Venturing out of the safety of the forest only for occasional sightings, Bonnie quickly became a local celebrity, dividing the Holland community into two groups: those who were ‘Team Bonnie’ and rooted for her to survive, and those who were determined to shoot and eat her. Both groups searched for her in the woods — which stayed buried under 3 feet of snow all winter — but aside from quick glimpses, the ‘babe in the woods’ remained hidden. That is, until hunters started picking her up on wildlife cameras. And what they saw truly amazed them. – ” Meredith Turner-Smith, media relations specialist for Farm Sanctuary
As time passed, the weather grew colder and the winter snow began to fall. If Bonnie was out in the wilderness, it was unlikely she could have survived all this time alone. But as it turned out, she wasn’t alone.
The runaway cow found a new family
Bonnie had found a new family to take care of her; a herd of wild deer. The deer had accepted the runaway cow as one of their own.
Since she had lost her first family (and cattle are herd animals), the deer helped Bonnie survive and accepted her as their own — eating, sleeping and running together! Like a deer, this ‘bovine Bambi’ would disappear into the forest whenever people appeared.
It seems the deer’s instincts to avoid humans to stay alive had rubbed off on Bonnie.
Bonnie had found a loving family in the forest but she wasn’t suited to the harsh winter woods. As a domesticated animal, Bonnie couldn’t stay with her herd if she wanted to grow up to be a strong, healthy cow.
Then a rescuer stepped in…
Luckily, before any hunters could find her, a kind neighbor stepped in. A woman named Becky decided to help Bonnie survive the winter.
Every day, Becky would trek through the snow to bring Bonnie food, water, and fresh bedding. After a while, she had gained Bonnie’s trust so she decided to call Farm Sanctuary for further help.
Farm Sanctuary tried to convince Bonnie to leave her life in the wilderness for greener pastures with them, but it was proving harder than they initially thought. Bonnie was a cunning and stubborn calf, and she had no intention of leaving her new family and life in the woods.
They made three attempts over the course of two weeks to rescue Bonnie. After eight months in the wilderness, it was finally time for her to move on.
Since it was too risky to try catching her in the woods, we built a corral around her eating space, patiently waiting to close her in. Bonnie was very wary of our presence, however; she only let Becky touch her, and would run away if anyone else got too close.
Unsurprisingly, Bonnie was mistrustful of humans, to begin with. But once she woke up at the Farm Sanctuary she realized that she was now in a safer, warmer place to live out the rest of her days.
Even though Bonnie had to leave her deer family behind, she made a new one at the sanctuary. This time, a family that was a bit more like her…
Bonnie beat the odds. Here, our resilient new friend will spend her life in peace, surrounded by caring humans and a loving herd of her fellow rescued cattle.
Bonnie is truly a one-of-a-kind cow; her resilience and adaptability in the face of struggle is something to be applauded. We hope she lives out the rest of her days happily and never loses her fighting spirit.