On Jan. 22 Dr. John E. Madigan, professor and researcher of Medicine & Epidemiology at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine led a rescue mission to retrieve Molly the Cow, who fell in a 30-ft. deep mine shaft on Jan. 18. The mine shaft was located in her owner’s privately owned land, located in the community of Tuttletown in Tuolumne County, Calif. The cow did not sustain any serious injuries.
The cow was suspected to have fallen in the mineshaft on the night of Jan. 18, when the owner’s neighbors heard mooing and a fall. Molly’s owner, Antoinette Nichols, contacted her veterinarian, who later contacted Tuolumne County Animal Control. However, Tuolumne County Animal Control didn’t have the necessary equipment to rescue the cow from the mineshaft and felt unprepared to properly sedate the 1200 lb. cow.
“This was something that is beyond our scope,” said Jennifer Clarke, animal control manager of Tuolumne County.
Tuolumne County Animal Control then contacted the UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT) a group of faculty and residents at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Members of the response team are required to go through training programs that teach them how to set up equipment, approach emergencies and the organizations involved in rescues, as well as overall emergency rescues.
“Safety is key. Assess the situation before initiating, and just know your strength and limitation and be a service within your abilities,” said Nina Akana, a student at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the VERT.
According to Akana, to perform these rescues the team uses a piece of equipment called a “Large Animal Lift,” a specifically designed lift for horses and other large animals typically used after surgery. In this rescue, the lift was attached to a tow truck in order to elevate Molly out from the mineshaft.
Tuolumne County is a heavily mined area due to their history as an old mining ground. According to Akana, it is common for homeowners to have old mine shafts located throughout their property.
This particular mine shaft is located in an area where cows typically graze and is protected by fencing. According to Dr. Madigan, the cow may have lain down or was grazing and slipped into the mineshaft.
The VERT, lead by Dr. Madigan, also requested the assistance of the Yolo County Animal Shelter. According to Sergeant Michael Nevis of the Yolo County Sheriff Department, the Yolo County Animal Shelter has assisted VERT on several past incidents. In this rescue mission, another officer who is trained on low and high angle rescues was also called for assistance.
According to Clarke, the cow was properly fed during the four nights she spent in the 8-by-10 area in the mineshaft. Animal control and the owner threw food and lowered buckets of water into the mineshaft. According to Akana, the cow was exhausted after the rescue, as she did not seem to sleep during her time in the mineshaft.
“She’s a Brahman cow and they’re usually pretty hot tempered for…cow species,” Akana said.
According to Madigan, the cow was properly sedated with dart sedation before the lifting. The rescuers were lowered into the mineshaft in order to put the Large Animal Lift harness on Molly and position her properly to make the rescue possible. After the lift, the veterinarians conducted a post-rescue examination, where they found that Molly had no broken limbs or bones. She did, however, have a few scrapes due to the fall.
Photos by Joe Proudman