After Hurricane Dorian blew through the Outer Banks of North Carolina on September 6, park officials at Cape Lookout National Seashore immediately got to work assessing damages. Debris littered the beaches, cabins were battered, and new inlets were carved by the Category 1 storm. But what most perplexed the park’s spokesperson, B.G. Horvat, was the tan, skittish female cow found milling about the island.
“It’s unusual for a cow to be out there, but there was a lot going on,” Horvat says. “So the cow really wasn’t a big priority.”
The park’s workers continued clean-up efforts with little thought about their new four-legged friend until about three weeks later, when two more cows appeared. The park’s castaways are believed to be from nearby Cedar Island, where a nine-foot storm surge churned up by Dorian likely pulled them into the Core Sound, Horvat says. Somehow, officials believe, the cows must have swum through the sound before finding solid ground on North Core Banks, the northernmost section of Cape Lookout National Seashore—a distance of at least three miles. Horvat isn’t sure exactly how far they traveled, but he thinks they might’ve found some reprieve from swimming by standing in the shallow areas of the sound.
“My mouth dropped,” Horvat says. “Oh man, imagine the story that cow must have from surviving this traumatic episode in the water.”
The cattle don’t appear to be injured and seem to be settling into their new home at Cape Lookout just fine. The park has yet to identify the cows’ owner, so officials haven’t decided whether to keep the cows on the national seashore or move them back to Cedar Island. Several other cows and horses from the island didn’t survive the storm, the Charlotte Observer reported.
For now, park visitors can see the new wild cattle that freely graze the national seashore and have become somewhat of a symbol of the Outer Banks’ resilience in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
“These cows managed to be there on the other side when the storm passed and the sun came out again,” Horvat says.