The mystery over 41 cows that randomly dropped dead in Colorado has intensified, after an expert gave his opinion as to what may have happened.
In October 2022, numerous cattle were being discovered dead near the town of Meeker in Colorado.
Officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) said in November—after 41 cows were found dead—that they could not confirm the cause. Some cattle, but not all, appeared to have injuries linked to wolves, the officials said.
However, no wolves had been detected in the surrounding areas, and some cattle had no injuries at all. CPW said the deaths could have been caused not by wolves, but by “large canines.”
Carter Niemeyer, wolf-predation expert and former U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services district supervisor, was supplied with documents on the incident by the Humane Society of the United States. Niemeyer said that he saw no evidence of wolf-caused injuries on the dead cattle.
“I did not see any evidence of predation by wolves,” Niemeyer told the Humane Society. “I don’t really see any evidence of dog bites either.”
Niemeyer added that these deaths may have been caused by brisket disease. This is a condition, also known as high mountain disease, that affects cattle in high-altitude environments and can occasionally cause heart failure.
In this case, the cows had been living at an altitude of 9,200 feet, the Humane Society of the United States said in a press release. They also appeared to die quite suddenly, all at once, indicating that they could all have become sick together. However, this has not been confirmed.
The mysterious incident came as gray wolves are slowly beginning to make a comeback in Colorado. The animals used to be abundant in the state before they were completely eradicated by the 1940s.
Colorado is aiming to implement a wolf-reintroduction program, Proposition 114, approved by voters in the 2020 general election.
However, the decision is controversial among the general public in Colorado. There are those who fear that reintroducing wolves to the state would pose a danger to their livestock.
The Humane Society of the United States said in a press release that it was concerned this incident had increased “anti wolf hysteria” among the public.
This is because stakeholders—who are involved in the wolf-reintroduction process—said that they were against wolves and would hunt them if needed.
Wendy Keefover, senior strategist for native carnivore protection for the Humane Society of the United States, said in a press release: “We are grateful that Carter Niemeyer could review CPW’s evidence to conclude it was highly unlikely that wolves were responsible for the deaths of these cattle.
“The truth is that less than one percent of cattle inventories die as a result of predation, and Carter’s report exonerates wolves. CPW should show some love for wolves, an iconic species beloved by most Coloradoans.”