By Connor Lynch
MARATHON — Truckers carrying livestock past this northern Ontario town have more to worry about than rounding up escaped cattle after an accident. Hunters in pickup trucks are attracted by the opportunity to get some free beef.
After a recent highway accident, two hunters were charged with theft. Both men ended up splattered in blood and were standing over a carcass when police arrived.
A livestock truck hauling cattle overturned on Hwy 17 at Marathon, a town of about 3,000 people, about 400 km north of Sault Ste. Marie, on Oct. 28.
Marathon OPP Const. Peter Bertin told Farmers Forum that when a cattle truck overturns in Marathon, the police get inundated with phone calls from locals. “Everyone wants to go get the cattle,” he said. “There’ll be people calling us left, right and centre, asking if they can shoot the cattle.”
Police allege that 43-year-old Darcy Coughlan and 43-year-old Gordon Fisher, both Marathon residents, got a tad overzealous. The two men were arrested the day after the crash; both were charged with theft, and Fisher was charged for discharging a firearm on a roadway, which is illegal.
Bertin said an officer heard gunshots coming from the scene of the crash the day after the accident and found the two men covered in blood standing over a dead cow.
Bertin said they always tell people, at least initially, that the scene is the property of the cleanup company and that shooting the cattle is technically theft. After cleanup and cows have been rounded up, police tell hunters they can go out and shoot any stray cows unaccounted for.
“This is Hwy 17. There’s lots of traffic. Visibility isn’t great at night. Now (cows are) a liability,” Bertin said, adding that hunters can also be a hazard. “Too many people running around with rifles in a small area can be dangerous.”
In his 10 years in Marathon, Bertin said three or four cattle trucks have overturned and “people call right away, seeing if they can shoot a cow.”