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Dead cow in the Missouri River – who gets it out?

Posted at 6:00 AM, May 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 15:01:09-04

GREAT FALLS – A dead cow was recently seen in the Missouri River in Great Falls, prompting several people to contact us asking how it might have gotten in the river, and who, if anyone, is responsible for removing it.

As for how a cow gets into the river in the first place – it is often simply a matter of being very close to, or even wading into, the water for a drink, and then either being caught in a strong current, or simply losing a step and falling in.

When it comes to removing the carcass once it is in the river, we have not been able to determine what agency – if any – might have responsibility: calls by us and several concerned residents to the Great Falls Police Department, Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks yielded no answers.

Our next step was to contact NorthWestern Energy, which is responsible for operation of the dams in our area.

Spokesman Butch Larcombe says that NorthWestern Energy usually won’t do anything unless the carcass reaches one of the dams – and in such a case, it will depend on where on the dam the carcass ends up.

Larcombe said in an email: “If it ends near or on our intake screens, which allow water into the generation portion of the dam, we will remove it and take it to the landfill. If it ends up elsewhere, it will likely pass through a spillway gate and continue downstream. With the heavy runoff like we are experiencing , we work pretty diligently to keep all sorts of stuff away from our intake gates.”

We will update you if we get more information.