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Penalties steep for cow killers

May 30, 2012

A herd of cattle graze north of Valley City, blissfully unaware that some of their fellow bovines in the area have fallen victim to at least one serial cow killer.

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association received an anonymous donation of $1,000 for its reward fund for information leading to the arrest of suspects involved in a pair of livestock shootings in Griggs County. The two incidents near Cooperstown involved the killing of four horses and three head of cattle. Authorities are also investigating a massacre of 14 cattle near Hankinson in Richland County.

Barnes County Sheriff Randy McClaflin said the occasional livestock shooting is not unheard of in the region.

“If you’re talking mass numbers, no, if you’re talking one here or there, it happens from time to time,” McClaflin said.

“Sometimes if you’re out shooting at a gopher it may ricochet and hit a cow and they don’t even know it, or they can hit a cow if they’re out deer hunting too, I suppose. It’s rare, but it does happen. Or it could be maliciously shooting a cow.”

Barnes County Assistant States Attorney Brad Cruff said charges in such cases are dependent on the value of the livestock that are killed. Between $500 and $10,000 is a Class C Felony, and above that amount is a Class B Felony.

The cattle in the Hankinson case were valued at roughly $30,000, which Cruff said “It was over $10,000 in damage to livestock, so it would be a B Felony, so that would be 10 years and a $10,000 fine plus restitution.”
A couple years ago, a cow was shot south of Valley City, but no charges were ever filed in that case. McClaflin said other forms of vandalism to farms are much more common.

A few years ago a string of electrical boxes were shot up, and about every year, at least one farmer loses crops to people joyriding through planted fields.

Cruff said those criminal acts would generally fall under the charge of destruction of private property, and with enough damage, tearing up a field could get as heavy as killing livestock.

“Crop adjusters have it down to a science so they can come in with a pretty accurate estimate,” Cruff said.

He added that other possible charges could include criminal trespass if the field is posted, and even federal charges are possible “if they came out of South Dakota or Minnesota with the intent to commit that crime or transported the firearms and ammunition.”

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