Holy cow! It must be a slow news month in Germany if a runaway animal makes the front page of a top selling German newspaper.
Bovine Yvonne has been keeping animal lovers in Bavaria in a tizzy after she broke through an electric fence on May 24 and has been hiding in a nearby forest ever since.
On Saturday, German tabloid BILD splashed the headline "Save Cow Yvonne" on its cover, set up a Facebook page and posted a $14,000 reward for anyone who can help lead to the cow's capture. Let the cow hunt begin!
But it may take more than a social media campaign to capture Yvonne. She supposedly has help: Yvonne has been spotted with a herd of deer in the thick southern German woodlands.
"Day and night, we have up to seven people on the search for the cow," said Michael Aufhauser, the founder of Gut Aiderbichl, an animal sanctuary and rescue facility that has taken the lead in the rescue efforts and will board the cow if it's found. "We are even using an infrared camera, two four-wheel drive Jeeps and a quad bike, but no luck so far."
All hands on deck
After local authorities initially issued a shoot-to-kill order, fearing that Yvonne would be a security risk and endanger drivers on a busy nearby road, Aufhauser and his team decided to buy "the cow in absentia" from the local farmer and deployed search dogs, experienced riders on horses and scores of volunteers for the hunt.
"The last time we spotted Yvonne was a week ago at 1 in the morning, but it was too dark to place a tranquilizer dart," Aufhauser said.
There is even a Swiss "animal communicator" involved, an augur, who says she has been in contact with Yvonne via a subject from her home in Switzerland.
But, for the rescue team, the most promising approach is the hope for an awakening of family instincts.
"At first, we brought in Waltraud, Yvonne's sister, and placed her at the edge of the woods," Aufhauser said. "Then I got lucky and found her own calf, Friesi, on a farm in Austria, a now full-size ox who had been believed to be dead."
And, this week, Yvonne's supporters are hoping to lure the cow from her forest hideout with the sex appeal of a handsome bull called Ernst. "He is the George Clooney among the former breeding bulls," Aufhauser said.
Several times, Yvonne has been spotted peeking through the trees at her family members under the cover of darkness, but she always managed to evade police, hunters and animal welfare activists.
Germany has had its share of crazy animal tales. Germany's so called "summer hole" stories have focused on "Caiman Sammy," a croc who was spotted in a popular quarry pond causing fear among sunbathers, and "Bruno the Bear," who scared hikers, killed sheep and eventually got shot in the summer of 2006.
This rainy German August started with flashy reports about a poisonous spider that supposedly crawled out of a banana box in a supermarket. The grocery store was shut down for weeks and the spider was never found. But the multi-legged arthropod was probably not cute enough to make front-page headlines.
In times of gruesome economic news and reports of violent conflicts in the Middle East, Yvonne's funny escape plot truly has "story of the month" potential.
Sadly, time might be running out for Yvonne. Local authorities have suspended the shoot-to-kill order for only two weeks and banners have been spotted near the woods that read "Kill The Cow."
Fans and supporters across Germany still hope for a happy outcome so that Yvonne can end up at her designated Gut Aiderbichl retirement home instead of reaching the same cruel fate as "Bruno the Bear."
Even so, Bruno became a legend: his body was eventually stuffed and can now be viewed at a Munich museum.