Disney endings like this are un-herd of in real life.
A young cow is safe at last after fleeing captivity by escaping into the woods of upstate New York and surviving for nearly a year by joining up with a family of deer.
Bonnie the cow’s unlikely story began on a farm in Holland, N.Y., where she was raised with her birth family, say her new caretakers at Farm Sanctuary, an animal advocacy nonprofit.
After the owner of the Holland farm died in August, Bonnie and the rest of her herd were sold.
But Bonnie didn’t want to follow along. On the day her new owners showed up to take possession of their livestock, Bonnie — then a 4-month-old calf — ran for the woods.
It might have been a lifesaving move — her new owners may have planned to take her to slaughter.
Talk of her escape inspired locals. They followed Bonnie’s wanderings on wildlife cameras scattered through the woods.
Soon they saw the resilient bovine wasn’t alone. Bonnie took up with a herd of deer, who seemed to treat her as one of their own.
When people from Holland caught up in person with this unlikely gang, the distrustful herd scattered.
Concern for Bonnie grew. Winter upstate is tough for animals, even those with the speed and intuition of deer. Coyotes run rampant in the woods, and bears are also seen.
And word got to area hunters that a slow, heavy, easy target was out there waiting to be gunned down and turned into hamburger.
Poor Bonnie’s odds of surviving the harsh weather among human and animal predators were slim.
But she soon learned to trust one human neighbor — Becky Bartels, who owned the property where the affectionately labeled “Cow-Deer” and her posse settled.
Every day, Bartels piled food and bedding onto a sled that she dragged through the snow, which piled 3 feet deep. At 6:30 a.m, seven days a week, Bonnie and Becky met for breakfast.
Bartels decided the woods would never be safe for her still-growing four-legged friend. Some neighbors were still threatening to slaughter Bonnie if she roamed onto their property, Farm Sanctuary said.
So Bartels reached out to Farm Sanctuary, which was glad to help.
But getting Bonnie to sign on wouldn’t be easy. After all, her experience with humans up to this point was not good.
On their third trip, with Bartels’ help, sanctuary workers carefully sedated Bonnie and finally managed to get the groggy cow to join them for the 110-mile drive to her new home — a 271-acre sanctuary that also houses a rescued goat named Charlie T, a wingless chicken called Oprah Wingfree and four other cows with moving stories.
Farm Sanctuary National Shelter Director Susie Coston says it’s a “one in a million thing” that Bonnie — with the help of her human friend Bartels and a herd of deer — is alive today.
“She really learned to survive like a wild animal survives,” marvels Costin. “She’s brilliant.”
Bonnie has even learned how to be a cow again.
“She’s happy now, and she’s really bonded with another cow,” Coston says. “Alexander Bean is her new friend. He’s a 6-month-old calf who’s been with us for about six weeks. They share a pen.”