A distressed bull found wandering along the side of the Southern motorway has been shot dead.

A local farmer contacted police shortly after midday today after the bull escaped from a trailer on the motorway near Takanini.

Auckland Metropolitan Commander Inspector Kerry Watson said considerable resources were sent to try and locate the bull but it was not found.

At 3pm it was seen near the motorway. Specialist animal and Vet services were called to try and help the distressed animal however it ran free and "threatened the motorway system".

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"As a last resort the animal was shot dead. Traffic is flowing normally in the area."