Elko County sheriff's deputies are investigating the killing of five cows and shooting of more than a dozen others in the mountains northwest of Elko, Nev.
Ranch hands discovered 22 cows with gunshot wounds late Monday afternoon near Swales Mountain, Undersheriff Clair Morris said. He said the cows belonged to at least two different ranchers.
"It's pretty devastating to the ranchers," Morris told the Elko Daily Free Press. "It's a huge loss of money."
There were no signs that the animals were butchered, and they have no motive for the killings at this time, he said. "To just go out and shoot them and leave them there is beyond me," Morris said.
Detectives and brand inspectors are investigating the crime scene about 12 miles northwest of Elko and trying to positively identify the owners of the animals, he said. "We'll do what we can to see if we can find out who's responsible," Morris said on Tuesday.
Last December, a 21-year-old Elko man was ordered to serve three years' probation and pay $1,450 restitution for killing and butchering a rancher's cow.
Jayce J. Blevins pleaded guilty in August 2013 to attempted unlawful killing of an animal belonging to another person, a gross misdemeanor. He admitted shooting the Red Angus cow that was found dead in March 2012 on Thorpe Creek Ranch southeast of Elko near Lamoille with a bullet hole through its neck and a chunk of hind quarters missing.
Deputy District Attorney Tyler Ingram told the judge at that time the restitution was significant given the importance of cattle to the rural community about 300 miles northeast of Reno.
"It was pretty obvious that this was a silly and senseless crime, and especially here in Elko County where livestock is a livelihood," Ingram said.