Dozens of cattle in Colorado have been slaughtered over the past two months by an elusive predator that has left no tracks.

In October, 18 dead cows were found just outside the town of Meeker. Some looked as though they were killed by wolves, but officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife found no wolf tracks or evidence of the predator in the area.

In the two months that local wildlife experts have searched for a culprit, at least 40 calves have died.

The rancher who lost those calves, Jerry Klinglesmith, wrote in The Fence Post that what he thinks may have happened.

“The most likely scenario would be the following: An apparent canine attack may have triggered the onset of a still-inconclusive cause of death,” Klinglesmith wrote.

Klinglesmith, along with veterinaries, officials with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other experts, continue to investigate the cause of the deaths. While the case largely remains a mystery, a new theory, unrelated to wolves, has emerged.

Both Klinglesmith and Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northwest Region Manager Travis Black say the cows may have also been infected with black leg, a disease caused by the Clostridium bacteria, The Coloradoan reported.

Pathology results have not yet confirmed whether that was the cause of death.

Nearly two dozen cows were killed at a Colorado ranch by an unknown predator in October.
Nearly two dozen cows were killed at a Colorado ranch by an unknown predator in October.

LITTLETON, CO - NOVEMBER 21: Wranglers help push cattle through open space during a cattle drive through Sterling Ranch on November 21, 2021 in Littleton, Colorado. Sterling Ranch held a cattle drive to continue the western tradition of moving cattle from their summer range down to winter grazing pastures. The drive mixes the West, and its traditions of cattle drives, with the suburbs where residents of Sterling Ranch were able to watch and see cowboys move the cattle as they wound through their neighborhoods along open space connecting the homes in the Sterling Ranch housing community. The cattle drive took place along open space in the 3,400 acre property that makes up Sterling Ranch. Almost 50 head of cattle were moved by a dozen or so wranglers as home owners and their kids came out from their houses to watch the unique event. The drive included a team of cowboys and cowgirls, horses and dogs from the Clough Cattle Company that moved the cattle to their winter home. Sterling Ranch has developed the housing in the area as a master-planned community that hopes to advance the ideals of land stewardship and environmental sustainability. The ranch moves cattle from summer pastures to winter grazing areas to help achieve rotational grazing, which they say is a critical way to foster a healthier ecosystem across the prairie landscapes. Cattle drives are a longtime western tradition and grazing of cattle is a key part of the strategy of building a robust ecosystem. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
In the two months that local wildlife experts have searched for a culprit, at least 40 calves have died.

After mentioning the possibility of it being caused by the disease during a Nov. 17 state Wildlife Commission meeting, Black said a “handful” of calves sustained injuries consistent with a wolf attack. Some had missing tails and marks consistent with canine teeth.

While cows can develop a variety of diseases, it remains unclear whether Klinglesmith’s cattle had been suffering any health issues. Being attacked by dogs or wolves would have exacerbated any health issues within the herd, according to Black.

Officials have utilized aerial flights, howling surveys and game cameras to look for wolves and wolf tracks to no avail. There have been no confirmed wolf reports in the area, only unconfirmed sightings, leaving officials confused and desperate for an answer.

“We have zero evidence of wolves being in the area, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there,” Black said. “Right now, we don’t have a solid answer as to what happened.”

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