For four months, a unique Long Island resident made a home for herself in the woods skirting a local golf course. Neighbors called her Vienna — some had seen her, but most only knew her from local lore.
Vienna, who’d escaped from a nearby slaughterhouse, was hiding something. When rescuers finally captured her, they couldn’t believe it — there was more to this mysterious cow’s story than they’d realized.
When Strong Island Animal Rescue League team members Frankie Floridia and Eddie Stepinski heard about Vienna in late August 2022, they quickly ensured the cow would be signed over to them upon capture. It was imperative to Floridia and Stepinski that Vienna, who’d already been through so much, ended up at a sanctuary.
Mike Stura of Skylands Animal Sanctuary & Rescue brought his corral, which he helped Floridia and Stepinski set up near one of the holes. Staff at the course were eager for the rescuers to capture their unexpected guest as quickly as possible and gave them full reign to do so.
“We got full permission to use their property,” Floridia told The Dodo. “It was almost like that scene from ‘Ghostbusters.’ Remember when they said, ‘It’s on the 13th floor?’ They were like, ‘Please do whatever you have to do, just get it.’”
The pair set up motion-sensor cameras around the golf course. When Vienna came near, they’d see her on their phones immediately. In the black and white, they watched the sweet cow gazing right at them, so close to the corral yet refusing to go inside.
After an early failed capture during which Vienna broke out of the corral, Floridia and Stepinski knew they’d have to work even harder to gain her trust. With Stura’s help, they began to arrange multiple stakeouts and capture attempts.
Every day, even on Thanksgiving and on his birthday, Stepinski went to the area near the corral and threw food into the woods. He made sure to call the cow when he came. He wanted Vienna to know that he didn’t mean her any harm. He wanted her to start recognizing his voice.
“I would say ‘C’mon, good girl, where are you?’” Stepinski said. “I would say the same thing, ‘Where are you, good girl? Come get your food.’”
Eventually, Vienna became braver. Sometimes Stepinski would spot her big eyes in the woods, peeking out from behind a tree. Once, Vienna was so close that she surprised him.
“I didn’t realize that she was standing right there,” Stepinski said. “She was waiting for me.”
As months went by and Vienna became more trusting, Floridia and Stepinski knew the day of her capture was coming soon. Stura had already arranged a home for her at Skylands. They just needed Vienna to take a few steps into the corral, to safety.
They’d also noticed Vienna was getting bigger. They were glad — surely, they thought, it was because she’d been eating so well.
Finally, Vienna went into the corral. On December 11, 2022, four months after the crafty cow first appeared, Floridia, Stepinski and Stura all worked together and the rescue went off without a hitch.
“The final night, with everyone’s hearts and heads in the same place, the stars aligned, and her capture went flawlessly,” Floridia wrote in a Facebook post.
Strong Island posted a video of Vienna’s capture here: