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Five young purebred bulls mysteriously showed up dead on the ranch this past summer, drained of blood and with body parts precisely removed. The ranch's vice president, Colby Marshall, drives his truck down a U.S. Forest Service road. "Then we'll get out and take a little walk to where one of the bulls was found. And the carcass is still there," Marshall says.
Coming upon one of the dead bulls is an eerie scene. The forest is hot and still, apart from a raven's repeating caw. The bull looks like a giant, deflated plush toy. It smells. Weirdly, there are no signs of buzzards, coyotes or other scavengers. His red coat is as shiny as if he were going to the fair, but he's bloodless and his tongue and genitals have been surgically cut out.
Marshall says these young livestock were just reaching their top value as breeding bulls. The animals are worth around $6,000 each. And since these were breeding bulls, hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of future calves were lost too.
Finding these young Herefords in this remote country can sometimes take the ranch's experienced cowboys days. Ranch staff members are now required to ride in pairs and are encouraged to carry arms.