Home News Local News Task force to investigate cattle deaths mounting in Eddy County

Task force to investigate cattle deaths mounting in Eddy County

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Eddy County Sheriff Mark Cage says there have been approximately 12 cattle shooting deaths in Eddy County this year, and he is creating a task force to investigate.

Eddy County Sheriff Mark Cage says nearly a dozen cattle deaths reported in Eddy County this year are a major priority for his office. (Mike Smith Photo)

The last case reported was on Aug. 1 when detectives from his department responded to 634 Angel Ranch Road near Artesia. When they arrived, six cattle were found deceased over two separate properties.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Cage said.

The investigation revealed that a high-caliber rifle was used within a half-mile radius of two separate residences.

Cage said investigating these cases is difficult. He said Eddy County is nearly 5,000 square miles.

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“Ranchers are spread throughout the county,” he said. “Ranchers may not see parts of a ranch for a specific amount of time.”

The vastness of ranch space, a deteriorating crime scene and the lack of personnel are other reasons Cage gives for not arresting a suspect.

There’s another problem on a higher level.

“The state crime lab is undermanned,” Cage said. “We have evidence waiting to be processed (and) we’re at their mercy.”

Cage adds that homicides and crimes against humans take precedence over animal cases, and he said ranchers understand that.

Cage said when his administration took office earlier this year, farmers and ranchers across the county complained they felt ignored by the Sheriff’s Office.

“We have put strong emphasis on crimes against farmers and ranchers,” he said. “We’re the only people there to enforce the law.”

Cage also cites the lack of personnel in his office. Deputies also serve warrants, perform evictions and patrol county roads for traffic. He said the Sheriff’s Office is “full service.”

Another past problem, according to Cage, was deputies were not educated when it comes to cattle killings. He said supervisors have been educated and they have passed it down to their underlings.

Cage has also encouraged dialogue with ranchers as meetings have been held at the main office in Carlsbad.

“I’m recruiting two ranchers who will be my liaisons with my task force I’m putting together to investigate,” Cage said.

Cage said his personnel have some speculations on who’s behind the cattle deaths.

“We have different theories and any one of them could be true,” he said. “Disgruntled former employees or younger folks intoxicated and looking for cheap thrills are the two most plausible we’re looking at.”

Cage said it’s difficult to place monetary value on the animals that have been reported killed.

“It’s hard to say specifically,” he said.

Cage said anyone with any information on these cases should call the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office in Carlsbad or Artesia.

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.

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