Gerald "Buzz" Berg's bad day began with a knock on his door. It was a neighbor, informing him that his nine head of bison had wandered off his farm and joined the morning commute through the Baltimore suburbs.
In apparent pursuit of the good life, the freewheeling females made their way from a rural to more urban part of Baltimore County, eluding more than a dozen police and tactical team members. "Our biggest concern was that they weren't far from the Baltimore Beltway. . . . A buffalo [in] 60-mph rush-hour, traffic is not a good thing," said Lt. David Folderauer, the Baltimore County police shift commander and self-described "range boss."
Police had cruisers, a helicopter, all-terrain vehicles. "The only thing we were missing was horses," Folderauer said. "That would have made it easier for us." From the county's two-lane highways, through fields, woods and back yards, "they had themselves quite the little tour," he said.
And then the herd arrived at Greene Tree. Big lots. Nice lawns. A gated community where a bison can roam. "Where the [bison] were, it's all townhouses," said Elayne Berg, Gerald Berg's wife. "But they're beautiful townhouses."
Forming a human chain, police moved the herd onto the community's tennis court, where Berg, driving up in his all-terrain vehicle, found them "pushing tennis balls around with their noses," he said. Kids laughed, residents gawked. The police, afraid one of the half-ton creatures would keel over from heat exhaustion, were pouring the drinks -- big buckets of cold water into an inflatable kiddie pool.
Berg supplied a stock truck, but for five hours, the bison eluded a dozen captors. "Every time one jumped the net, the crowd" -- of 75 -- "would applaud," Folderauer said. "I've chased murderers and rapists, robbers and burglars. These were stubborn little beasts."
No surprise that the bison were in no hurry to return to Berg's farm in Stevenson. Frankly, they're treated like meat, each going by the nickname "You're Next," Berg, 75, said.
It was late afternoon before police, holding chaise longues before them like toreadors' capes, managed to load the last bison aboard Berg's stock truck for the two-mile ride home.
"They're locked and chained now," Elayne Berg said. "The only way they can get loose is if somebody breaks them out."
Neither man nor beast was hurt during the outing. All "the girls," as Elayne Berg called them, returned home in good shape.
Her husband hadn't fared as well.
"He didn't eat all day," she said. "And he is exhausted."