Water buffalo sighted in Jackson County
Water buffalo are large, horned bovines native to the highlands of Southeast Asia.
So naturally some Jackson County residents are asking themselves, "Why do I have one in my backyard?"
Mildred McEntire didn't know what to make of it one night last fall when she heard a commotion out at her bird feeder.
The 93-year-old Evans homemaker lives by herself in a two-story farmhouse at the end of Donohue Road. Her son Michael lives a few miles up the road.
She used to have a dog, but he died a few years ago. Now she's got a new pet, although this one is not quite her best friend.
"The first time I seen him, he was out there eating out of our bird box up in our tree," McEntire said.
It's not uncommon for a deer or other animals to eat from her bird feeder. So as she always does, McEntire went out on her porch to try and shoo it away.
"I just went out and hollered at him," she said. "And he went across the ditch, and that's when I looked at him - I didn't know what it was."
Water buffalo typically weigh about a ton, stand 5 to 6 feet tall and bear horns that can grow as long as 5 feet. In spite of those menacing dimensions, McEntire kept her cool.
"I just thought it was some big animal," she said. "It didn't excite me too much."
But not everyone is taking the situation in stride.
McEntire's niece, Kitty Bowles, said the water buffalo was just one of the animals left behind from a local game farm that closed down last year.
While the owners of that farm are long gone, Bowles said they just opened the gates and left the animals to roam free in rural Jackson County.
Her grandson, Ryan, encountered the buffalo on a path in the woods when he was hunting deer last fall. Bowles said some residents have seen razorback hogs that were released from the farm.
While no one has been injured or threatened by the animals yet, Bowles said she worries that something could happen.
She said she's tried to get local law enforcement officials to track down the animals, but there has been uncertainty over who should handle the case.
"I can't get anyone to do anything about this animal," Bowles said of the water buffalo.
She said she doesn't want someone to kill the one that wanders near her aunt's house. She just wants someone to relocate it to a better habitat.
"It's like nobody really has any jurisdiction over this," Bowles said.
The state Division of Natural Resources regulates native West Virginia wildlife, but this one isn't quite native.
"The water buffalo is not an animal that the DNR has authority over," spokesman Hoy Murphy said.
Since the water buffalo is a bovine species, Murphy said the state Department of Agriculture would have jurisdiction.
"If there was some concern about public safety, then we would get involved," he said. "But at this point, it would fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture."
Agriculture department spokesman Buddy Davidson did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
West Virginia lawmakers considered a bill designed to regulate the ownership, possession and sale of non-native and exotic animals last year, but Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed the bill on concerns it was overly broad.
For now, Bowles said she just hopes someone can get the water buffalo from paying any more visits to her aunt.
"This kind of thing should not happen," Bowles said. "I am really upset, because it seems impossible to get anyone to do anything about it."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-5148.