The Moffat County Sheriff's Office is investigating the mutilation and killing of three area cows.
Two steers and one heifer in a herd owned by Jacque Osburn mysteriously have been killed and their genitals removed between Oct. 10 and 16, Moffat County Sheriff's deputy Courtland Folks said.
"Possibly it could have been done for some type of worship with the organs," Folks said. "It's something that makes livestock owners uncomfortable."
Osburn said the cattle that was in a pasture near the Craig-Moffat County Airport already had been sold to a buyer. She estimated a loss of up to 1,300 pounds of meat and a personal financial hit of up to $2,400.
Folks said no visible marks were present on the cattle to determine how they were killed, but the department is contacting the state's veterinary services to conduct further investigation.
Osburn said incidences of livestock mutilation were rampant in the area about 20 years ago, but this is the first time that any of her cattle have been mutilated. Osburn said she has a "small cattle operation" of about 200 head. She has moved the calves in her herd to a different pasture.
"I guess if it's going to happen anytime, it's going to happen around Halloween," she said. "I hope it's not the start of something, but you never know."
Osburn said she has started to circulate word of the incident to other ranchers, so they can watch their livestock.
Law enforcement is looking for leads in the case, and anyone who has seen suspicious activity in the livestock fields should call the sheriff's office, Folks said.
Folks said livestock mutilation wasn't unheard of in Moffat County, though it is rare.
"It's a little more common when you get closer to the larger areas," he said.
If charged, a person could face a minimum of a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty, said Amy Fitch, 14th Judicial District chief deputy district attorney.
Osburn said she wouldn't be as outraged by the incident if a person needed the meat for survival. Instead, she has pictures of the dead animals with only their sexual organs removed.
Insurance will cover the costs of the animals if it is proved that the animals were shot, hit by lightning, drowned or hit by a vehicle, she said.
"It's scary," she said. "People feel pretty immune from crime when out here, but we're not. It wasn't a good trick, and it sure as hell wasn't a treat."
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org