AMERICUS, Ga. – A year-old cow was tranquilized into contentment and then airlifted to safety Friday from a tiny island where she had been stranded for weeks by rising water.
"She's emaciated," said veterinarian Linda Sawyer, a member of the team that rescued the 250-to-350-pound heifer (search) dubbed Blackshear. "She's 150 pounds lighter than she should be."
Sawyer said the cow was also slightly dehydrated. She had been marooned for about three weeks on a cypress-covered island the size of a city block in Lake Blackshear (search), a 20-mile-long lake in southwest Georgia.
After an animal control worker delivered a shot of sedatives and tranquilizers, the cow's knees got wobbly and she settled to the bank. Rescuers then attached slings around her chest and stomach and a state patrol helicopter inched into position, lowered a rope and hauled the limp cow about 100 feet into the air for a ride to shore, some 300 yards away.
The Sumter County (search) Sheriff's Department, concerned the island might be inundated within days as the lake level rose, led the rescue.
"It went well," said Lt. Andy King, as rescuers petted the groggy animal during her 30-minute drug recovery. "She's alive and that's what we wanted."
Blackshear apparently waded to the island when the water level was lowered to allow homeowners to work on their docks, and then became stranded. No one has claimed her but a few residents were bringing corn by boat to keep her fed. Her new home will be at a local farm.
"No one around here could stand to see her drown or starve," Sawyer said.