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Mysterious Northwest Cattle Mutilations Crop Up Again, This Time With 7 Dead In Central Oregon

Anna King / NW News Network
File photo. A fog of dust is kicked up from hooves as cowboys quietly push cattle into a corral from a big draw on Silvies Valley Ranch near Burns, Oregon, in 2019.

You can drive an hour on the highway and still be in central Oregon’s Crook County. 

Perhaps, then, it’s easier to understand why patrolling the vast remote region is difficult.

Seven cattle have been found mutilated over the last three months in Crook County and the sheriff’s office is actively investigating and hoping for a break in the case. This follows several recent cases in the past few years in rural Oregon. 

“Well yeah, it makes us angry,” Crook County Undersheriff James Savage told the public media Northwest News Network. “It’s upsetting, because, again, it’s our livelihood. It’s how they make their money and how they feed their families and support themselves. And when this [the killings] is needlessly a waste.”

One dead, mutilated cow was found in late February on private remote ranch land. The sheriff’s office asked ranchers to check animals. Then, six more dead cows turned up sprinkled through the county with missing body parts, according to Savage. He says there’s very little physical evidence. 

“In a lot of cases we come down, it’s a burglary or theft or whatever,” Savage says. “We have suspects. We catch something on camera, or someone sees something, or witnesses something. But this is so rural, it’s just very tough to piece it together.”

Other recent cases of cattle mutilation have been reported in Wasco, Umatilla, Harney and Wheeler and Lake counties in the last several years. The sheriffs from several of those counties are trying to coordinate and share information.

“Don’t be afraid to call,” he said. “If you see something, a suspicious vehicle or person in the area, also report it to us so we can try to run that down. [Ranchers] please be vigilant and check on your animals during this time.” 

Similar mysterious cattle mutilations, and those on wildlife like elk and deer, have been going on for decades across the country. The last reported cattle slayings in the nearly 3,000-square-mile Crook County were in the mid-90s, according to Savage.

Anyone with information on these recent cases can contact the sheriff’s office at 541-447-6398 during business hours.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.