Helicopter in Harding Co scares cattle while looking for nests


Carrie Stadheim, Tri-State Livestock News (SD)

May 10, 2019


A Harding County family who filed a formal complaint with the FAA after a helicopter flying low over their private land scared cattle through the fence still hasn’t been compensated by the company responsible for the damages.


In a letter to the Flight Standards District Office, Pine and Tami Gilbert, representing Gilbert Cattle Co., described a March 25 incident where a helicopter flew low over their private calving pasture, “bouncing in and out, up and down, around the rocks.”


The Gilberts thought it looked like the chopper was hunting coyotes. But it wasn’t.


By flying so close to the ground and erratically dropping down near the cattle, the helicopter spooked the cattle, causing most of them to run to the pasture edge. Many piled through the fence.


Cows and calves were injured. When it was all said and done, two calves died, several cows were hurt and several pairs had to be put back in the barn to mother up again. Fence also had to be repaired.


The Gilberts immediately called their sheriff, who was able to ascertain that the helicopter was landing nearby in Bowman, North Dakota. He had a deputy hold the pilot at the airport so he could meet with him personally.


Harding County Sheriff Wyatt Sabo said he spoke with those on board the plane, at the airport. The pilot told him they were looking for eagles’ nests in the area.


“We don’t have much for eagles nests here,” said Sabo, adding that aircraft bothering livestock hasn’t been an issue since he’s been sheriff, and he hopes this is a one-time thing.


“They told me they weren’t flying low over any houses. I told them those guys weren’t worried about their houses, it was their livestock. The helicopter was running their livelihood.”


The pilot first denied flying in that area, but by looking at the flight plan, the sheriff was able to determine that, indeed, the copter had flown over Eagle’s Nest Butte. Three people on board included the pilot, an eagle biologist and a representative from Apex Clean Energy, said Tami. Cattle on two neighboring ranches were also spooked by the helicopter, said Tami...