Utah Police: 15-20 Cattle Starve to Death in National Park

Authorities in Utah believe that 15-20 cattle starved to death in the Capitol Reef National Park. ( National Park Service )

An investigation is underway in Garfield County, Utah after several cattle were found dead and others were found in poor body condition.

A July 25 statement from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office indicates that 15-20 cows and calves were found dead in the Capitol Reef National Park. The cause of death is believed to be starvation.

“The Garfield County Sheriff and Garfield County Attorney take situations such as these extremely seriously and the case is currently being screened for criminal charges,” the Sheriff’s Office statement says.

Animal cruelty charges are being considered by the Sheriff’s Office as the case is still under investigation.

“The ranching community of Garfield County love their livestock and are proud of their heritage and the way they take care of their animals. This incident in no way reflects the care given to the majority of livestock by the cattlemen of Garfield County, and will be dealt with in the appropriate manner,” the statement says.

Other cattle were found to be malnourished, as well. Utah has been going through a drought and the area around Capitol Reef National Park was determined to be in “extreme drought” according to the Drought Monitor on July 26. Authorities indicated that there was very little grazing or water in the area because of dry conditions.

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Some of the dead cattle have been removed from the area, but it was not clear if any of the surviving cattle had been gathered from the Capitol Reef National Park.

The recent cattle death case at Capitol Reef National Park follows an announcement from the National Park Service on July 19 seeking input related to the Environmental Assessment Capitol Reef National Park Livestock Grazing and Trailing Management Plan.

“Cattle grazing and trailing have historically been part of the park’s landscape and mandated use, which is why it is important that we develop a plan to continue that use while also preserving the park’s natural and cultural resources,” says Capitol Reef Superintendent Sue Fritzke. “As part of that process, we will continue to work with our permit holders, stakeholders, the public, and local, state and federal partners to ensure a collaborative final product.”

The comment 30-day period for the Grazing and Trailing Management Plan ends on Aug. 17.

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