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Utah rancher Eric Lyman lost a total of two cows and three calves to shootings last summer, animals left for dead in Twelve Mile Canyon where they grazed.

He’s tried to figure out who was responsible. A group of livestock producers offered a reward, he spoke to ATV riders who crisscrossed the same land as his cattle, he said, and people with trail cams in the area kept their eyes peeled for suspicious activity. No one was ever able to tell them what happened or who was at fault.

That’s not even what Lyman finds most frustrating about the shootings.

“The frustrating part is that somebody would take a gun and shoot something that’s just standing there looking at them,” he said. “For no rhyme or reason.”

These types of animal killings — sometimes intentional and sometimes accidental — are relatively rare in Utah, usually occurring only a couple times a year, state officials say. But last year through the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of these incidents skyrocketed for reasons experts and industry members can only guess, with dozens of animals dying around the state.

This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aim to inform readers across the state. Click here to access the full article.

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