Oregon authorities are investigating the mysterious death and mutilation of two bulls whose carcasses were found this summer: one in Harney County, the other in nearby Wheeler County.

In the most recent case, a Black Angus bull, out of the Thomas Angus Ranch purebred line and worth about $4,500, was found dead and mutilated Aug. 14 at Greenbar Ranch in Wheeler County.

Bodie Brown, whose brother Tanner owned the bull, and a friend were the first to find the carcass near a watering hole. Its nose, tongue, left cheek, ear, eye, reproductive organs and part of its tail were removed with clean cuts.

The cause of death is unknown.

The bull, when found, had likely been dead a few days and was already decomposing. The 24-hour window during which a necropsy could have been performed on the body had passed.

Deputy Jeremiah Holmes of the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office is on the case.

“It’s kind of a strange thing,” said Tanner Brown, who owned the bull and runs about 300 pair on 9,000 acres. “It’s unfortunate, but I think there are other people in the same spot I’m in.”

Brown was right; he isn’t alone.

This is the fifth case of a cattle mutilation in Wheeler County in the past 20 months. Nearby Harney County has had five cases in the past four years, two of which happened this year, in May and July.

According to FBI records, it’s not just an Oregon problem. Since the 1970s, thousands of killings and mutilations of cattle have happened across the U.S.

The cases, officials say, usually look “eerily similar:” A cow or bull is found dead in a remote area with no indication of how a suspect might have gained access to the property. Typically, no footprints, tire tracks or fingerprints are found. There’s little to no spilled blood and no visible puncture wounds, bullets or strangulation marks.

In other words — a mystery.

Holmes, the deputy on Brown’s case, is also the primary investigator on the four other recent mutilation cases in Wheeler County and said all five cases looked “about the same.”

The deputy, however, declined to comment on further details about the August case, saying he’s tracing some specific clues and doesn’t want a suspect to know.

As a hypothetical example, if suspects knew he recognized their tire tracks, they might ditch their getaway car.

“I’ve got a few leads I need to look into that I can’t talk about yet,” said Holmes.

All five recent mutilation cases in Wheeler County are still open and under investigation, as are the most recent five cases in Harney County.

Holmes advises farmers and the public to be on the lookout for people or vehicles that appear suspicious and to write down license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions.

In a recent statement, the Harney County Sheriff’s Office similarly invited community members and livestock owners “to be vigilant and watch for suspicious persons or vehicles where livestock (are).”

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