Seven cows died in the last week on Weston Mountain after someone shut off their water supply. Umatilla County Sheriff Terry Rowan urged livestock owners to check on their animals and make sure they have plenty to drink.
Last Wednesday a livestock owner reported finding two cows dead off Highway 204 near milepost 5, and a subsequent call reported five more dead cows, all from lack of water.
“This is something we’ve never had before,” Rowan said.
The livestock owner told investigators he sets a water tank on the property that feeds into a trough, Rowan said, then opens the spigot but removes the handle and leaves it nearby. That way the cattle don’t bump the handle and shut off the flow.
“In this particular situation, someone shut it off and it left them without water,” he said.
Other livestock growers also reported vandalism to their water systems, including the removal of floats from water tanks and in an one case the dismantling of a pump that fed a water trough. All of the incidents occurred behind fences on private property.
“Thankfully, in all these other cases, they caught them in a day or two,” Rowan said.
Oregon State Police received a call Saturday afternoon from a livestock owner who reported someone shut off the water supply to the trough, causing his cows to die. Lt. Mike Turner, commander of state police in Pendleton, said that case looks to be the same one the sheriff’s office is investigating.
Rowan said whoever is behind this faces charges of trespassing, theft and criminal mischief, plus first-degree animal abuse, a felony. With temperatures now driving past 100 this week, he said, animals need water.