Brazos County is seeing an increasing number of cattle getting out of fences and onto to local roadways.
Sgt. Kristopher Fraley, is in charge of the Live Stock Unit at the Brazos County Sheriff's Office. Fraley's team handles hundreds of loose livestock incidents every year. The unit was created in 2008 by Sheriff Chris Kirk.
Cows getting out of pastures may not sound like a serious problem, but since November there have been 87 incidents of cattle getting out and onto roadways and 18 so far this month. If one gets on the roadways it could cause a serious or even deadly accident.
So who would be responsible if a vehicle were to hits one of those cows?
Well that depends on where the accident occurs. According to Brazos County law, if it is on a Farm to Market Road the driver is responsible.
"Brazos County is a free range county and what that means is that on farm to market roads and county roads the cattle have the right of way,” said Fraley.
Ask any local rancher and they will tell you preventing cows from getting out of their pastures is almost impossible. However, the drought, mixed with recent heavy rains isn’t helping the situation. Cattle have less to eat so they go in search of food. Add that to the fact that flash flooding damages fences, which makes it easier for them to get out.
"A lot of people have a tendency to see it from the cattleman's perspective. Regardless of how much fence and how new the fence is, cattle are unpredictable,” said Marc Hamlin. Hamlin is a local cattle rancher. He also serves as Brazos County District Clerk.
"I could leave here 15 minutes from now and these cattle grazing here, they could go out of here out a water gap where it's washed out and I don't know about it and be out on the road and then the deputy is out here looking for it,” said Buddy Winn. Winn is also a local rancher.
Fraley says that the idea behind his unit is to help protect citizens and ranchers.
"We're not here to punish anybody, but we're here to protect the safety of the citizens of Brazos County as well as to look after the property interests of the cattle,” said Fraley.