AUBURNDALE – It is, admits Donna C. Wood, one of the most unusual cases that her office has received recently – although it’s not a crime that’s totally unheard of.
“It’s not something we hear of daily, that’s for darn sure,” said Wood, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “And it’s not an easy thing to steal, to be sure.”
That’s why the Polk County Sheriff’s Office’s Agricultural Crimes deputies are asking for the public’s help in solving a cattle theft investigation. Sometime between noon on Sunday, Dec. 11 and 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 12, no fewer than 12 Hereford cows were stolen from a pasture on the corner of Berkley Road, just north of Mount Olive, in Auburndale. The stolen cows were reported to the sheriff’s office later that day by the ranch owner.
“They were in the pasture when he checked them the day before, and the next day when he checked on them, they were gone,” Wood said.
Wood added that it appears the thieves entered the pasture by cutting a link from the chain fence, and then found a way to lure the cows away, most likely with feed.
“It looks as though they cut the lock and enticed the cows into pens in a truck, probably with food,” Wood said. “Then the owner went to check on the cows and they weren’t there.”
While cow stealing is a rare kind of agricultural crime, Wood said, “It’s not completely unheard of.”
All of the cows were heifers and small calves. Most were red and white. One was described as being a dark brindle color, with large horns unique because the tips were cut.
Another cow was blonde with a white face and “banana” style horns, the sheriff’s office reports.
Unfortunately, Wood said, none of the cows have any brands or tags.
“They were not marked,” she said. “It would have helped a lot.”
That’s the main reason why the Polk County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help. As Wood noted, someone could have driven past the farm on Sunday and noticed the cows being moved into the truck, and thought nothing of it, assuming it was a normal business transaction being conducted by the owner.
But it’s also possible, she said, that they may have noticed something that could prove critical in solving this case.
“That’s the reason we’re encouraging people to share information,” she said, adding that the cow field is in a rural spot, but one close to some main roads that are well traveled.
“It’s a pasture,” Wood said. “It’s got some wooded areas on one side. There are some main roads there. But typically, how many times do you drive past a pasture and see a truck? You may notice it — or not. People may not pay attention to something like that. We are in rural Polk County. It’s something you’re accustomed to. But someone may have noticed that the cows were loaded up like that. If you were in the area and you did notice it, call us, because it wasn’t the owners who were doing it.”
Wood said it’s not entirely clear why someone would go to all the trouble of stealing something as large and bulky and difficult to maneuver as 12 cows.
“Obviously, it could be they had placed the cows on the pasture in their area,” she said. “We don’t know. What do you do with a stolen cow?”
One option might be to sell the animals, she added.
“Do you take it to a brokerage house?” Wood asked. “We have taken steps and contacted people in the agricultural community to say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re looking for, have you seen these cows.’ Or it could be as simple as someone taking them for their own and maybe they are going to butcher them. We just don’t know.”
Anyone with information is urged to call Deputy Andrew McKee at 863-534-7205. Anyone with information on this case who wants to remain anonymous, but be eligible for a cash reward, can call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS or log on to www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com. In the meantime, Wood said, the investigation remains open.
“We try to identify what has occurred and when it occurred,” Wood said.
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