Hurricane Florence was a terrifying hurricane that devastated the coastal area of the Carolinas, putting humans and animals in grave danger. One New Jersey man and his two friends knew that there would be animals in need and they volunteered to save as many lives as possible. Their decision to drive to North Carolina ended up saving the lives of three puppies and one very scared cow.
15. A Helping Hand
Hurricane Florence swept through North Carolina last month, leaving devastating floodwaters in its wake. Mike Stura is a resident of New Jersey who also happens to love animals. He had been through hurricanes himself and understood the severity of the tropical winds and rain. Stura knew that animals would be in need after Florence, so he jumped in his truck and headed for South Carolina to see how he could help.
14. Skylands Animal Sanctuary and Rescue
Stura is the founder of Skylands Animal Sanctuary and Rescue. His rescue farm is dedicated to animals who have been abused and neglected, or those who simply need a safe home.
Mike started Skylands Animal Sanctuary and Rescue with one tiny piece of land and a few small animals. According to the Sanctuary’s website “These animals are rescued from slaughterhouses, live markets, farms, extreme neglect, abuse, religious ceremonies, abandonment, and are even found wandering streets…”
13. Three Pups
Stura was not alone in his quest. His two friends, Todd Friedman and Dave Miller, went with him. They immediately found three puppies above the floodplains in North Carolina who were in dire need of help. “They were emaciated and abandoned and shivering, and I pulled up by the road with the truck,” Stura said. “I just stopped, and they came right up to me.”
12. Cows in Crisis
Saving puppies was easy compared to Stura’s next challenge. A video of cows had been circulating among the locals. They were struggling to swim away from the flood on a nearby property. This was exactly the reason that Stura and his friends had journeyed to North Carolina. They knew they needed to make a plan.
11. Enter the Boat
Stura had brought his boat with him to navigate the water. Local people pitched in to help the rescue effort. “I put the boat in, and a local girl, Caroline Byrd … showed us where to go,” Stura said. “She didn’t live far, and she knew the area where the cows were, so she hopped into the boat with me, and off we went.”
10. Struggling to Float
Although cows are actually adept at swimming, the water rose so fast that it became difficult for them to get out. By the time Stura and Byrd made it to the property, some of the cows had made it onto the owner’s front porch. The porch was safely elevated at a height that protected it from water. However, one poor cow was still swimming in front of the barn. She was barely surviving.
9. Acting Fast
Stura, Byrd and the owner acted as quickly as possible. “We chased her and got a halter on her,” Stura said. “To keep her head above the water, we latched her to the boat so we could bring her with us.” But they knew that was just the first step. How could they maneuver the large animal to safety?
8. A Tugboat
The truck and trailer were parked a mile away because that was as close as they could get without the vehicles being carried away by floodwaters. That meant that the boat would need to tug the cow a very long distance. The strain on the motor caused it to fail. The group wasn’t sure what would happen next.
7. Help Arrives
Thankfully, help arrived just in time. “Luckily, a guy came with a jet ski and gave us a little tow,” Stura said. This is yet another example of how communities pull together in a crisis. All people in the area were working to save each other. The cow was towed to the trailer, but then they came to the hardest part of all.
Getting the cow out of the water and to safety was the most difficult part of the rescue. She was exhausted and could barely move. “The girl had lost so much energy from swimming, and she was running on pure adrenaline,” Stura said. “Once we got up close enough to where the water was no longer supporting her body weight, she could no longer get herself up off the ground. So we had to try and lift her … and she’s a good size.”
5. Getting a Lift
Stura, Friedman, Miller, Byrd and other locals worked together to lift the cow out of the water. By this point the cow was terrified. “She would cry and I’d lift her, and she would get her rear end up, but she just couldn’t totally stand,” Stura said. “We got some straps beneath her and some halters on her face … and there was about eight of us, lifting and pulling on her, and we just kind of heaved her up into the trailer.”
4. Safe and Dry
The cow made it into the trailer, where she could dry off. Now that they were safe, Stura talked to her in a soothing voice, assuring her that she would be all right. “Even though she’s too tired to get up, she’s feisty,” Stura said. “She’s a beef cattle — they don’t get handled by people, so she probably has had very limited interactions with people, and probably what she did have was not really positive — it was probably people taking her family and friends away, so she was understandably a nervous wreck.”
3. A New Life
Stura is a dedicated vegan and believes in honoring the life of every living thing. The owner told Stura that if he saved any cows, he was free to take them home. So Stura and his friends collected the three puppies, the cow, and made the drive back to the Sanctuary in New Jersey. Three men and some animals!
2. Safe and Sound
Stura knows he has to be patient with the cow, who has no idea what freedom feels like. “I pet her on the head and talked to her,” Stura said. “I can already see that her demeanor is starting to change a little bit, but I would say that it’s going to take a little work for her for sure. And that comfort will probably not come from me — it will come from the other animals. They’ll make her feel safe, and eventually, I believe they’ll make her feel that she can trust me because of my interaction with them.”
1. Babe the Cow
Stura settled on a name for the rescued cow: Red. He decided right away to introduce her to Babe. Stura rescued Babe from Hurricane Harvey last year. He hopes they will become fast friends. “Babe is the same breed as her, and they both came from hurricanes. If they bonded, I think that would be pretty cool.”