Turns out it wasn’t aliens, cultists, or a drive-by shooter.
The killer of three calves north of Treherne has been determined to have been blackleg.
Owners Chelsea and Gene Hacault reported the sudden and suspicious deaths of the two red Simmental steers and one heifer last week.
“It turned out to be blackleg,” she said on Monday. “It’s still suspicious, because there were parts of them missing, but they did die from blackleg.”
The calves were found dead on Sunday, Oct. 14, and last seen alive when they were fed the previous Monday.
“They were fat and happy. We were feeding them because the grass was low. It took us two days to catch them because they weren’t hungry, starving or dying,” said Hacault last week.
The animals were found close beside each other within sight of No. 2 Hwy. That three calves would drop dead simultaneously, so close together, with no indication of illness, made her suspect foul play.
Hacault said investigators from the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian had examined the animals and had reported back to her over the weekend that the cause of death was blackleg, a disease that can cause sudden, multiple deaths in otherwise healthy cattle.
The Hacaults, who run about 100 head, had three more calves drop dead over the weekend, possibly due to the same disease. They had vaccinated the calf herd in spring with an eight-way vaccine, but like most ranchers, didn’t give the recommended booster shots in the summer.
“You’re not going to herd them all up and booster them on pasture,” she said.
The diagnosis, however, doesn’t explain the fact that reproductive parts, ears and tongues were missing from the three that she estimated had been dead about four days.
The way the organs were missing appeared unusual. For example, the ears — not the tastiest parts of a calf, even to coyotes — looked like they had been sliced off with a knife.
“They want to say it was predators because they did die of blackleg, but nobody will ever know,” she said. “I’ve never seen an ear taken off that clean by predators.”
The latest suspicious cattle deaths came after two red Simmental calves were found dead southeast of Carberry on Saturday, Oct. 6, leading some to suspect that cattle were being shot at random by vandals.
In an earlier interview, owner Allan Reynolds said that he believed that they were killed on Thursday, Oct 4. One appeared to have a bullet hole in its head just above the eye, and the other was left with a partially skinned face and the tongue was missing, he added.
On Monday, RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike Zens confirmed that the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian had been unable to pinpoint the exact cause of death from the two heads that had been removed and sent in for X-ray examination on Oct. 10.
What was certain, however, was that there were no bullets found in either one.
“They weren’t able to find any evidence that the animals had been shot,” said Zens.