Authorities are investigating the mysterious death and mutilation of a cow on a remote ranch at the border between Oregon’s Lake and Deschutes counties.
The range cow, a breeding animal worth about $850, was found dead and mutilated — her genitals, udder, tongue and heart cut out — last fall at Bar DR Land and Cattle, a property in Hampton owned by ranchers Clancy and Stephen Roth.
The cause of death is unknown.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Tom Roark launched the investigation Sept. 18, 2019. The Bureau of Land Management is also on the case. Four months later, Roark said he still has no leads.
“It’s creepy, gives me chills,” rancher Clancy Roth said. “There’s no evidence of who did it or how they killed her. It’s so sad.”
This isn’t the first time the Roths have had their cattle maimed. About 20 years ago, Roth said, her father-in-law and her husband, Stephen, found multiple cattle mutilated in the same way with the same body parts removed.
And the Roths aren’t alone.
In August 2019, a similar incident involving five bulls had occurred at Silvies Valley Ranch in Eastern Oregon.
According to FBI records, thousands of killings and mutilations of cattle have happened across the U.S. since the 1970s. The animals typically are found with the same body parts missing.
Kenyon Morehouse, the Roth’s ranch hand, found the cow dead when he visited the pasture to fill the water tanks, as he did every morning.
Deputy Roark said it’s hard to discern how the cow died. By the time he arrived on site the morning after getting a call, which he said was “a good hour-and-a-half trip” from the sheriff’s office, it was past the 24-hour window during which a necropsy could have been performed on the body.
There were no bullets, no strangulation marks, no recent lightning storms, no rope burns on trees, no tire tracks, no shoe prints — and no spilled blood.
Roth said the lack of blood is what troubles her most about her cow’s death.
“The blood was gone,” she said. “It looked like someone snipped her artery and drained her.”
On the ground beside the cow’s foot were agitated hoof marks, as though she had struggled in her last moments.
Roark said the missing body parts could not have been taken by scavengers.
“When a pack of coyotes or birds gets to a carcass, not much is left — just bones and hide, unevenly chewed,” said Roark. “This was clean-cut, like it was done with a blade. If somebody was hungry, they would’ve whittled up a chunk of back meat and taken it home. This wasn’t done for food. It was something sinister.”
Roth speculates that her cow may have been poisoned.
She said after the killing, her husband and his friend found a tiny scrap of fiber resembling a feather tip caught in nearby sagebrush. She said she believes the fiber was a fletch — part of a poisonous dart.
Analysis, however, did not point to a suspect.
But why, Roth said she wonders. Who would do such a thing?
The crime site was remote — about a 45 minute drive to the nearest paved road and about 100 feet off the dirt road.
In cow mutilation cases, theories abound about who’s responsible: aliens, demons, cults, black market organ traders. In the thousands of cases since the 1970s, no culprit has ever been caught.
Deputy Roark said he thinks a cult is using the body parts for some kind of “bizarre medicinal practices.”
The Roths said they also suspect a cult is involved.
“We think it’s a satanic thing,” Roth said. “They’re probably taking the reproductive organs and using or selling them for satanic rituals.”
She also said she wonders if the practice of cow mutilation is tied to certain times or numbers. The number on the cow’s ear tag, Roth said, was doubly unlucky: 1313.
“I’ve seen too many crime scenes,” said Roark. “But this one’s got no evidence. Nothing. It’s really bizarre.”
Those with information about the case should call the Lake County Dispatch Center at 541-947-2504.