By SCOTTA CALLISTER
Blue Mountain Eagle
CANYON CITY, Ore. -- The Grant County Sheriff's Office seized 50 head of cattle from two locations last weekend in the ongoing investigation into cow starvation at remote Flag Prairie.
The seizures follow the March 7 arrest of Peter R. Rawlins, 51, and his son, Austin P. Rawlins, 24, in connection with the case. Both men were booked at the Grant County Jail and released.
Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer referred charges of first-degree aggravated animal abuse, first-degree animal neglect, hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence to the District Attorney's Office.
Palmer said the cattle were seized as his office served two search warrants -- one at the Canyon Creek Lane property owned by Pete Rawlins, and the other at Flag Prairie in southeastern Grant County, where Rawlins has a cow camp.
Officials removed 19 head of cattle from the Canyon Creek ranch, but one cow escaped through a barbed wire fence onto national forest land. That cow remains at large.
Palmer said 31 head were seized at the remote Flag Prairie site, where access roads remained muddy and snow clogged despite recent melt-off.
Palmer said the animals were loaded in a goose-neck stock trailer and towed out by an Oregon State Snowmobile Association snowcat.
Palmer said it took seven hours, round-trip, to get to the cows and move them to the impound site.
The search at Flag brought the death toll in the case to 12 cows, including seven found on national forest land and five on private land. Two of the latter may have been dead for some time, perhaps before winter set in. Three were more recent, and may have died within the past week, Palmer said.
They are being screened by a veterinarian, and a brand inspection is expected this week.
Palmer's office has been looking into the case since early February, when Forest Service workers reported finding two dead cows on public land at Flag Prairie.
Palmer said a local rancher offered more information on March 7 that was instrumental in moving the investigation forward.
"If it were not for the due diligence of this man and his beliefs, this investigation would not be where it is today," Palmer said.
He said the cattleman got involved because of concerns that the situation would negatively affect the local cattle industry, already under pressure over grazing and environmental concerns.
Palmer said his office is working with other agencies on the case, and forwarding its findings to the Grant County District Attorney's office.
Pete Rawlins, in comments before last week's arrests, said the situation was being misconstrued by some in the community. He also said his son, who owns the cows, was feeding them on a regular schedule but an intense storm in January caused access problems.