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Know the West

Who killed the cows?

  On the night of April 14, rancher Tom Kelly says someone sneaked onto his ranch near Deming, in southern New Mexico, emptied a water storage tank, removed bolts from the legs of a windmill and shot 13 cows and seven calves dead with a high-velocity rifle. Kelly says his opposition to Interior Secretary Babbitt's rangeland reform proposal, and his outspoken views on private property rights and the excesses of the Endangered Species Act, may have made him a target of environmental activists. Kevin Bixby of the Southwest Environmental Center in Las Cruces, N.M., says none of the activists he knows are the kind of people who would shoot "innocent victims in the range war." Tom Bill Black, a state livestock inspector investigating the incident, says drunken partygoers sometimes take potshots at livestock, but, "This one seems a little more planned. They did their business and got out." Kelly sent a letter April 18 to other ranchers detailing the attack and warning them of the possibility of future "hate crimes." - Paul Larmer