A shocked Gladys Reitsma returned from holidays to discover vehicle-sized holes punched into heavy-wire elk fencing on her property.
At least one escaped bull elk needed rounding up on her ranch, which is about halfway between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake. And the rest of the bulls and cows were now mixing together, in rutting season.
Reitsma and her husband learned from a neighbour on Monday morning that a police chase involving about a dozen RCMP cruisers and the emergency response team late on Friday night led to their property damage.
They also learned that another landowner, living about a kilometre west, had a “highway” cut through his wheat field that same night.
Police received a tip that “armed and dangerous” suspect Ian Legge, who’s wanted on a Canada-wide warrant after allegedly trying to run down some Mounties, was in the area.
RCMP officers from at least two Central Alberta detachments attempted to catch a suspect, who was in a stolen car. But the man fled and then abandoned the vehicle when it became struck.
The suspect — it’s unknown whether he was Legge — escaped by swimming across the Red Deer River.
The elk rancher said she didn’t receive any notice in her mailbox from police to explain the damaged fencing.
“I want somebody to take responsibility,” said Reitsma, who lives with her husband off Aspelund Road near Woody Nook Road.
“It’s a little bit shocking,” she added, that whoever created the holes and broke 3.5-metre-tall fence posts left them over the weekend, knowing that 60 elk could escape.
Luckily, most of the herd animals stayed together, said Reitsma — although the yearlings, cows, calves and bulls are now mixing together, which could lead to some unplanned pregnancies.
The Reitsmas made a couple of calls to police detachments but felt they got nowhere on Monday. “They said they didn’t know anything about it, that they’d look into it,” said Reitsma.
But no one from the RCMP had come to examine the damage as of Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, the couple’s insurance company is refusing to pay out until they get to the bottom of how the fencing holes were caused.
When reached by the Advocate on Tuesday, Sgt. James Derouin of the Blackfalds RCMP detachment invited the Reitsmas to contact him.
“They never called me,” said Derouin, who was told that officers involved in the chase had talked to a number of landowners in the area. Since Reitsmas were away until late on Sunday night, they could have been missed, he suggested.
Derouin said police from the Blackfalds and Sylvan Lake detachments were acting on a tip that a man resembling Legge was hiding in the area.
The emergency response team and a police dog were used to track the suspect. But he eventually evaded police by diving into the river.
Derouin was told the police vehicle chase lasted only a few minutes before it turned into a foot chase, when the suspect abandoned his vehicle.
“We still don’t know if it was Legge,” said the sergeant.
He intends to look into the damage on the Reitsmas’ property, saying “nobody was intending to ignore her.”