COEYMANS, N.Y. (AP) — Fifteen buffaloes that escaped from a farm were intentionally shot and killed Friday after they dashed past a group of police, crossed a major highway and ended up near some schools, authorities said.
"The last thing we wanted to do was put these animals down," Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said. "But it wasn't a safe scene."
Three men hired by the farm opened fire on the animals Friday afternoon in woods in the town of Coeymans, about 10 miles south of the capital.
Bethlehem police Lt. Thomas Heffernan said the decision was made after experts agreed tranquilizers would not be effective and no portable corrals or trailers could hold the animals.
They escaped Thursday from a farm across the Hudson River in the Rensselaer County town of Schodack. The owner believes they swam across the river to the town of Bethlehem, where they wandered across a busy stretch of Interstate 87 and into neighboring Coeymans as a police helicopter tracked them.
The killing of the buffaloes, which were confined in a stream bed, turned chaotic at the start, with deputies detaining a hunter who refused their order to finish off one of the three buffaloes that were initially shot.
Apple said the wounded animal was floundering in the water. "We wanted that animal down," he said, and the man continued instead to shoot blindly into the brush at the other retreating buffaloes.
"It was turning into the Wild, Wild West," Apple said. "It was ridiculous."
The hunter was detained but hasn't been charged, Apple said. It's not clear why the hunter refused to shoot the wounded buffalo.
The buffaloes came from GEM Farms, an operation that has been raising buffaloes for their meat since 1973. Authorities said some buffaloes that escaped with the others were killed earlier, six on the grounds of Schodack Island State Park on Thursday night and a seventh at the park Friday.
Heffernan said the owner had the right to kill the buffaloes. A phone message left at the farm was not immediately returned. The carcasses of the escaped animals cannot legally be sold for meat.
Thomas Gallagher, a Cornell Cooperative Extension large animal expert who has worked with GEM and who consulted with authorities Friday, said tranquilizers are not effective against buffaloes because of their thick hides and doses need to be so high they are generally lethal.