Dozens of dead cows found at Skagit County farm

About 50 dead cows that had been improperly disposed of were found on a farm west of Burlington this week, with the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office seizing 29 living cows from the property.

After complaints from neighbors and an investigation by Animal Control Officer Emily Diaz, the sheriff’s office on Tuesday served a search warrant on the property in the 12300 block of Bay View Cemetery Road and located about 200 cows, some of which were dead.

Some cows on the roughly 140-acre property were euthanized because of poor health, Skagit County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Patrol Chad Clark said.

“They were in really, really, bad condition,” he said.

Several of the cows may not have survived much longer if left at the property, Clark said. About 130 more living cows are expected to be seized Saturday.

“We’ve got a lot more to go,” he said. “We’ve got to get it done.”

The seized cows will receive veterinary care and be taken to a location in Arlington, where they will likely later be auctioned, Clark said.

Dead cows found in 2005

It’s not the first time Skagit County officials have been called to investigate the Bay View ranch, which is owned by Roger and Marsha Pederson.

In 2005, an investigation revealed 172 dead cows scattered on the property — some as piles of bones, others left in decaying heaps attracting coyotes and other predators — according to a previous Skagit Valley Herald report.

“The problem has persisted,” Clark said.

It’s unclear why so many of the Pedersons’ cows have died and why they have been left to rot on the property.

The Skagit Valley Herald on Wednesday was unable to reach the Pedersons, and was unable to leave a message because their voicemail was full.

State law requires dead livestock to be buried, composted, incinerated or disposed of at a landfill within 72 hours of the death.

A carcass may be left to decompose naturally if the animal did not die of disease and is a certain distance from water, neighbors and public view, according to state law.

Skagit County, including the public health department and sheriff’s department, are handling the investigation. No state agencies are currently involved.

“We’re aware of the situation, but we haven’t been called in officially by Skagit County for an investigation in this matter,” said Mike Louisell of the state Department of Agriculture. “It’s certainly a disturbing situation for all involved, I can understand that.”

Skagit County spokeswoman Bronlea Mishler said the county health department is responsible for regulating disposal of dead cattle, and the sheriff’s office and animal control handle animal welfare issues.

A hearing with the county board of health is scheduled for Feb. 13, she said.

After 172 dead cows were found on the Pedersons’ property in April 2005, the couple was fined about $2,000 for two of those cows decaying in surface water, according to court records.

The couple’s property is bordered by Persons Road to the north, property used for the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to the south and dozens of neighbors, according to Skagit County Assessor’s records.

The Pedersons’ property also crosses Bay View Edison Road and extends to the Padilla Bay shoreline in some areas.

In 2005, the county and state Department of Agriculture cited concerns about improper disposal of dead cows, including the possibility of spreading disease to predators and through contaminated water.