Mutilated cow

Fossil-area rancher David Hunt found a cow dead and mutilated Thursday, July 23, with her tongue, genitals and reproductive organs cut out — and she was placed in an upright position.

FOSSIL — Authorities are investigating the death and mutilation of yet another cow — this time, on rangeland near Fossil.

And the culprit may have left a clue: a boot print.

The black Angus cow, a breeding animal worth about $1,000, was found Thursday, July 23, dead and mutilated — tongue, genitals and reproductive organs cut out. Her carcass was found upright, front legs tucked underneath, a position investigators say they haven't seen before.

The cause of death is unknown, and authorities told the Capital Press the case is ongoing.

"She died in a position she couldn't have gotten into by herself. I don't have any kind of logical explanation for it," said David Hunt, owner of Hunt Ranch and a partner-producer for Painted Hills Natural Beef Inc.

"There was definitely foul play involved in this animal's death," said Deputy Jeremiah Holmes, of the Wheeler County Sheriff's Office.

This isn't the first time Hunt has lost an animal to mysterious mutilation. Last December, he found a dead bull in the snow with its nose, lips, ears, tongue, tail and genitals removed and blood drained. Deputy Holmes said he worked on that case, too, with no leads.

Hunt isn't the only rancher to lose an animal this way. FBI case files record thousands of killings and mutilations of cattle across the U.S. since the 1970s. The animals are usually found with the same body parts missing — and no culprit has ever been arrested.

Hunt said he found the cow the morning of July 23 when he visited the pasture, as he does once a week, at a spot about half a mile from the nearest road. He said he immediately called the sheriff's office.

Holmes said it's hard to tell how the cow died. By the time authorities arrived, the animal had likely been dead a few days, past the window to perform a necropsy.

The tongue and genital wounds were "clean-cut," said Holmes, not by a wild animal. But Hunt noted the wounds weren't as clean-cut as those of his bull last winter.

How the cow died is a mystery. There were no dart punctures, no bullets, no strangulation marks, no rope burns, no tire tracks, no signs of poison.

In previous cases, people have speculated culprits may be cult members, satanic worshipers, even aliens.

But something makes this case unique.

Deputy Holmes told the Capital Press about 100 yards away from the carcass, officers found a partial boot print.

It's possible it was the rancher's own print. But Hunt says he hadn't stepped out of his vehicle in that area for a long time, it didn't look like his boot and Holmes said wind and rain would likely have covered over the print by now if he had. The print, he said, appears fresh.

The case continues.

"I didn't say much when my bull died last winter," said Hunt. "But this time, the cops wanted permission to publicize so maybe people can keep their eyes open. I say: all right, tell anyone you want. It won't bring back my dead cow, but maybe we'll catch the killer."

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