Livestock deaths raise questions

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The unexplained deaths of livestock on a small Millarville farm have neighbours, RCMP and a veterinarian scratching their heads.

Two ewes and a jenny (female donkey) injured on the Mackenzie farm west of Millarville on Nov. 20 died in what a local veterinarian believes are suspicious circumstances.

Autopsy reports performed by Dr. Jordan Holt, with Eastern Slopes Veterinary Services in Black Diamond, reveal an arrow or blade impaled the jenny while the ewes suffered trauma to the underside of their necks.

“The donkey had a penetrating injury through her chest close to her heart,” said Holt, adding there were no bullet fragments or exit wounds. “It is somewhat speculation, but the degree of suspicion is quite high based on the wound. If I had to put a percentage of confidence on it I would say 80 to 90 per cent.”

Holt describes the ewes’ injuries as blunt trauma with severe bruising on the necks and spines.

“This is all speculation, but I speculate that whatever happened caused some mass panic in the pen and they started running around and climbing on each other,” he said. “Sheep do tend to panic and pile up on each other if they are scared. We couldn’t find any bullet holes or arrow holes in the sheep but definitely they were bruised up pretty bad.”

A four-month-old foal belonging to the jenny died from parasites, cold weather and the inability to nurse while his mother was injured, Holt said.

Judy Mackenzie said her husband Sandy called her while she was shopping in Okotoks to tell her that, while feeding the animals, he found two of their purebred ewes dead, their jenny injured and her foal dead.

“It’s right up by our house,” Judy said of the pen. “The barn itself would not be more than 20 feet from the house and the pen is on the west side of the barn. It really makes me sad and angry.”

When Judy arrived home, the jenny, nicknamed Flo, was still alive, but barely.

“I went into the shelter and stroked her head and her eyes were blinking and her ear kind of twitched,” she said. “I had no idea what happened to her.”

Shortly after the Mackenzies moved Flo to the barn and gave her electrolytes, she died. They were unable to find an arrow or similar weapon that may have been related to the incident in the area.

“The wound just missed her heart,” said Judy of Flo’s injury. “Otherwise she would not have suffered all day.”

The Mackenzies used the ewes for breeding and the donkeys to protect the sheep from predators, she said.

“She’s a domestic animal just doing her job looking after her sheep,” Judy said of Flo. “We’ve been here for 27 years and we’ve never had a problem. It’s very sad and worrisome in our little quiet countryside.”

The incident has them feeling uneasy.

“We need to be more aware of who is on our road and what they’re doing,” she said. “I want to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We need to rally together to look after each other and our neighbours are really good at that.”

Turner Valley RCMP Staff Sgt. Dwayne Helgeson said the incident remains under investigation.

“We still have some work to do on it,” he said. “The story doesn’t make sense. There is just too many unknowns.”

Helgeson said the RCMP has no idea what occurred on the Mackenzie farm.

“There is nothing that we can confirm,” he said. “We can’t say for sure how those wounds occurred. Nobody knows at this point.”

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