When traveling rural highways in Oregon, one is likely to see signs indicating the area is “open range.” Open range means livestock are lawfully permitted to run at large. It also means that an owner of livestock owes no duty to motorists to prevent the livestock from wandering onto a highway. In fact, a motorist who injures or kills livestock in an open range district may be liable for the damage to the livestock, even though the cow broke through a fence and was standing in the road in the middle of the night!
On the other hand, a "livestock district" is an area wherein it is unlawful for livestock to run at large. Here, the livestock owner must retain control over the livestock within the livestock district. Livestock districts are generally located in or near city limits.
In any case, never assume that local cows will stay in their pastures. Drive safe and be alert!
- Arne Cherkoss
PS. I grew up raising cattle in Grants Pass. While we were usually able to contain the cattle by use of electric fencing, every so often the cows would escape (one particularly stubborn Hereford comes to mind). At our ranch, escaping cattle was generally due to vegitation or windfallen branches shorting out our electric fence. Other times, it was due to the darn cow simply busting through the fence. Thus, no matter how cautious the rancher, there is always a chance that cattle may escape onto the roadway. Therefore, I echo Arne's advice - expect the unexpected!
- Tim Williams