West Virginia Department of Natural Resources assistant chief Paul Johansen said his agency monitors only animals native to the state, such as white-tailed deer.
He referred the situation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its consideration, but that agency regulates only exotic animals that are put on public display.
Residents do not need permits to own them. State senators unsuccessfully tried to strengthen these laws last year after hearing about 48 animals escaping from an Ohio park.
In October 2011, sheriff's deputies shot and killed those animals -- including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions -- when the owner let them out of their cages before committing suicide.
West Virginia's law would have required exotic-pet owners to obtain permits and would have banned all future purchases or sales of those animals. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed the bill, though, after DNR officials expressed concern about funding and enforcement.
Bowles said the water buffaloes are gentle creatures and aren't afraid of humans.
"[My cousin] had gone down and got close enough to this little creek where she was last Sunday," Bowles said. "She just eased her calf behind a hay bale and started walking toward him."
She said that, another time, her grandson was bow hunting in a tree stand while the buffalo, then pregnant, loitered around him.
"Something needs to be done," she said. "What everybody wants is for these animals to be relocated."
Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.