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Photo courtesy Michele Clements
A bull that escaped from its owner after it was purchased during a Littleton livestock auction strolls through the yard of Ayer resident Michele Clements on Wednesday.

LITTLETON — The bull on the lam for nearly five days after being purchased at a Littleton livestock auction was shot and killed Sunday night.

The elusive more-than-half-ton animal was spotted by police in the area of Ernies Drive when the decision was made to put the creature down, according to a press release from John Guilfoil Public Relations on behalf of the Littleton Police Department.

“This decision did not come lightly,” Police Chief Matthew King stated in the release. “Littleton Police and the bull’s owner acted out of concern for people in the neighborhood and drivers in the area.”

For the bull’s owner, Terry Den Besten, of Den Besten Farm in Bridgewater, the entire incident should have ended differently and the animal’s capture could have happened days ago.

“It could have ended on (Aug. 16),” a frustrated Den Besten said from his home hours after the bull’s death.

The release states that the bull had been nearly struck by a driver on Great Road on Saturday night. That near accident led to heightened concern among police that if a motor vehicle were to strike the bull, it could lead to serious injuries.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Littleton police officers received a report that the bull had been spotted standing in the middle of Great Road by Janes Drive, the release states. Upon arrival, a Littleton police sergeant located the bull behind 25 Ernies Drive and contacted Den Besten.

The bull then started to head back toward Great Road. Fearing for the safety of drivers, the sergeant fired two shots at the bull, according to the release.

The release further states that the owner of the bull arrived on scene only moments after, firing another shot at the bull that proved to be fatal.

The hunt for the roaming creature began around 10:30 p.m. Aug. 15 when the bull escaped from Den Besten after being purchased at the Farmer’s Livestock Auction and Market Exchange less than an hour earlier.

“I was loading the animal, I didn’t get the (trailer) door closed fast enough, he came back off the back of the trailer, there was about a 6-foot fence, he cleared it and he was gone,” Den Besten said while standing on Mulberry Circle in Ayer on Aug. 16. That comment came to numerous members of the media after nearly 24 hours straight of hunting for the animal through three towns.

It was only the beginning of the hunt.

“I’ve been following this bull all week and I’ve located it every single day,” Den Besten said.

The initial plan was to tranquilize the animal, place ropes on the bull and lead him to his nearby trailer. However, a Massachusetts Environmental police officer was given orders to not tranquilize the bull due to its status as a domestic animal, Den Besten said.

“I could have ended it,” he added. “It would have been over.”

Later that day, the animal was frightened by a news team’s helicopter, causing it to run through multiple towns.

Sightings of the animal popped up here and there throughout the area for the days that followed, but the beast’s capture remained elusive. According to Den Besten, the main problem revolved around people in the community intervening with the capture.

The nearly weeklong hunt garnered ample attention. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) President Ingrid Newkirk released a statement on day two of the hunt that revealed the agency would pay to send the bull to a sanctuary.

“Like all of us, this bull values his own life, and anyone who makes two bids for freedom in as many days deserves a break,” she stated.

Den Besten claimed that people were disrupting the bull’s capture, even yelling profanities at him and keeping the bull on the run.

He pointed out that he had made arrangements with a handler to come to the area with horses and dogs to corral the bull and get it onto a trailer. Den Besten noted that the handler was nearly in the area when the bull was shot.

Den Besten said he was devastated by the outcome, pointing out that he had a lot invested in the bull’s capture. The majority of the frustration stems from the Environmental police not being allowed to shoot the bull with a tranquilizer within the first day of the hunt.

“I’m as mad as I’ve ever been in my life,” Den Besten said.

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis