Steamboat Springs Authorities are investigating why 11 cows showed up dead in the Yampa River near Hayden, but river experts say the animals should not affect the water quality.
Routt County resident Linda Bernhardt said she was fishing Saturday near the Yampa River Wildlife Area when she saw the animals in three groups in the river.
She said she initially thought they were pieces of the riverbank that fell into the water, but on closer inspection, she saw that it was a group of five black cows. A short distance away, she found another group of five cows, and a final cow was a little farther.
Bernhardt said she was concerned that the bodies would affect the water quality or the fish.
“We go fishing over there, and the fish, I don’t know that I’d want to eat the fish at this point in time with the cows being there,” she said.
Cindy DelValle, the Routt County Sheriff’s Office animal control officer, handled the case, but she was not available to comment Tuesday.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Mellisa Baumgartner said the office would perform tests to determine the cows’ cause of death.
Yampa River State Park Manager Ron Dellacroce said he had not heard about the animals in the nearby wildlife area, but he said it was common this time of year for animals to fall through the ice.
“More often than not, the cows end up in Utah,” he said.
Cows, elk and deer often crash through the ice and float downstream, he said.
“The volume of wildlife that ends up in the water after a winter is amazing,” he said.
Dellacroce said animals that fell in the river would not diminish water quality.
“You’re going to see such volume of water coming through this watershed, it’s a very minuscule amount of biomass compared to what’s out there that we don’t see,” he said.
It was not immediately clear who owned the cows or who managed the property that they were grazing on.
Steamboat Springs brand inspector Daren Clever said he referred the case to the Craig brand inspector, Brad Ocke, and a message on Ocke’s voicemail said he was out of town for the rest of the week.
Clever said that the animals often will crash through the ice when too many of them congregate at one place on the water as they try to get a drink, and it’s not uncommon to find the animals in the river.
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