Sheriff's Office investigating case of cattle mutilation near Los Alamos

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a bizarre case of animal mutilation that occurred the day after Christmas on a ranch located near Los Alamos. 

According to Kelly Hoover, the Sheriff’s Office public information officer, the caretaker of the ranch was checking on the property on Dec. 26 when he discovered the carcasses of two cattle lying on the side of the road. 

The animals appeared to be shot and one was apparently mutilated, Hoover said, adding that the animals were seen alive three days before the reported incident. 

One was a 3-year-old black cow and the other was a 2-year-old Black Angus bull that had a piece of its tenderloin missing. 

Sheriff’s deputies who arrived at the scene near the area of Harris Grade Road and Highway 135 were not able to turn the cattle over to confirm there were bullet holes. It appeared that someone removed the tenderloin with a sharp object, according to Hoover. 

Hoover said the person or people responsible face charges of trespassing and grand theft because the cattle are considered a “cash crop,” and each are worth several thousand dollars.

Some local citizens took to social media to express their outrage and to attempt to spread awareness of the incident. 

“It would seem that our community, especially ranchers and farmers, need to know that there are some disturbed individuals out there,” Shannon Olivera posted in the Facebook group Orcutt Neighborhood Watch on Jan. 3. “It infuriates me that there are people out there who think they can help themselves to whatever they like from the side of the road they are driving on.” 

Police in the Sacramento area are looking into a string of animal mutilations that occurred last year, although it’s not clear if the case in Santa Barbara County is related to any of them. 

According to the The Sacramento Bee, several decapitated animals—including rats, rabbits, chickens, baby goats, and catfish—stuffed inside paper bags have been showing up in various locations throughout Sacramento since December 2014. 

No one’s been caught. However, in some cases the carcasses were accompanied by small amounts of cash or lit candles, which bear some of the hallmarks of ritual animal sacrifice that’s commonly practiced within the religion of Santeria. 

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Rural Crimes Unit is investigating the cattle mutilations, Hoover said, who asks anyone with information to call Detective John McCarthy at 934-6512 or the anonymous tip line at 681-4171.

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