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Drive-by shooter targets cattle in West Marin

Joe Wolfcale
Marin Independent Journal  - 3/21/07

One cow and two calves have died in drive-by shootings on West Marin cattle ranches.

Officials with the Marin Humane Society said a 3-year-old Angus cow was found Monday suffering from multiple gunshot wounds on the J. G. Angus Ranch in the 5700 block of Chileno Valley Road near the Sonoma-Marin county border.

The animal, estimated at 1,300 pounds, was euthanized.

Authorities were also investigating the killing of two 400-pound calves at nearby ranches Feb. 16. One calf was grazing 60 to 70 yards from the roadway on McDonald Ranch near the 1800 block of Marshall-Petaluma Road in Marshall. It was shot in the midsection.

A ranchhand heard another calf bellowing from a nearby ranch and discovered it had been shot, rancher Merv McDonald said. It also had to be euthanized. An expended shell casing was found near the road, Marin County sheriff's Sgt. Mike Crain said.

John Goldbeck, owner of J.G. Angus Ranch, said he heard the gunshots Monday and saw a car full of young people fleeing the scene.

The cow was owned by rancher Joe Vierra, who rents 84 acres and runs 40 cattle on Goldbeck's 1,000-acre purebred Angus ranch.

"I saw the car go by and I heard the pop, pop, pop," said Goldbeck, who cares for 320 Angus bulls on his ranch. "It was just one of those bad luck deals. It was quite a loss." The cow was valued at $1,500, Crain said.

Marin Humane Society officials say the shootings will be taken seriously.

"Egregious violence like this will not be tolerated," said Cindy Machado, the Marin Humane Society's animals services director. "This is just devastating. We take these sort of acts very seriously. People just can't do random drive-by shootings of cows. Unfortunately, we have vicious people out there who think it's cool to shoot at animals."

Machado said the people responsible will be prosecuted and could face several animal cruelty charges.

"We're still investigating a possible motive," Machado said. "We've seen cases where an animal was slaughtered right in the field and taken for food. But what's concerning about this is the time of day and the fact that the rancher heard several shots."

Crain said the rancher heard gunfire at about 4:30 p.m. Monday and saw a small white vehicle about 300 yards away speeding from the scene northbound on Chileno Valley Road.

Fellow ranchers Sally and Mike Gale have tended to their 200 grass-fed cattle on Marin lands for decades. They own and operate Chileno Valley Ranch, which has been in the family since 1862.

"This is pretty startling, pretty horrid," Sally Gale said. "Everyone out here is upset. We've never seen anything like this where people are killing for the pleasure of killing. People rustle cattle because they need food. No one shoots an animal for nothing."

Mike Gale, president of the Marin County Farm Bureau, said the shootings were cowardly.

"The randomness, the loss of life is devastating," Gale said. "We can't have this kind of thing happening. I'm hoping we can solve it quickly."

Gale said the farm bureau is prepared to offer a reward for any information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of whoever is responsible.

The Marin Humane Society is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and convictions of those responsible.

"Hopefully, the neighbors can join forces and keep an eye out for any suspicious activity," Machado said. "It's important that the public be our eyes and ears. These are some isolated areas."

Anyone with information is urged to call the Humane Society at 883-4621 or the Marin Farm Bureau at 663-1231.

Contact Joe Wolfcale via e-mail at jwolfcale@marinij.com