HOUSTON (AP) – Willy the rodeo goatwho has lassoed the hearts of the residents of a rural south Texas county since escaping an arena on July 15 has been found.
The elusive goat had been hiding in fields of sugar cane and corn and could be caught for weeks in Willacy County, about 300 miles (483 km) southwest of Houston. Local residents searched for her on horses, ATVs and drones. Local businesses supported the search by donating 90 prizes and gifts totaling $5,000 — including brisket, hay bales and beef jerky — to those who found them.
Ricardo Rojas III didn’t have to go far to find Willy. He and a friend caught the slippery goat Monday in his backyard about a mile from where it escaped.
16-year-old high school student and family friend Sammy Ambriz was repairing animal pens on the teen’s 10-acre family property between Raymondville and Lyford in deep south Texas when Willy was spotted.
Neighbors may have seen the goat, so Rojas’ father told him to grab some ropes. Rojas used his family’s goats and their screams to lure Willy out of the wooded area behind his family’s property.
They soon saw Willy coming out of the woods and chased her as she ran back into the trees, Rojas said. They cornered her and both Rojas and Ambriz tried unsuccessfully to lasso Willy.
“And then she started running again. But luckily we had a fence there and she tried to jump over the fence but then her head got stuck in the fence,” Rojas said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Me and Sammy jumped on her. At that point, she wasn’t going anywhere.”
Alison Savage, president of the Willacy County Livestock Show and Fair, said they believed Willy was getting enough to eat and drink while fleeing, but feared predators, including coyotes, could get them.
“We had her checked to make sure she was healthy,” Savage said. “We plan to give old Miss Willy a very nice life in the future.”
When Willy first escaped, her name was not yet known. During the search, the cattle show had released updates Facebook site, and an online poll on the site dubbed her Willy. Officers weren’t sure if Willy was a boy or girl, Savage said.
People from across the US had reached out for updates and to convey their wishes for Willy’s safe return.
The search also brought together many of Willacy County’s 20,000 residents, many of whom grow crops and raise cattle while families went in search of Willy.
“I think it’s great that everyone worked together to find her,” said Rojas, who shares the awards with Ambriz.
The search was also a boon to the cattle show; Local residents and businesses donated hundreds of dollars to improve the nonprofit’s arena and other facilities.
“Even a little rodeo goat is important and has shown and taught us that we need to look out for each other,” Savage said, “and we need to look out for each other, and together there’s pretty much nothing we can’t do.”