State looks into claims cattle herd is neglected

Owner says reports that Chirikof herd is unhealthy are ludicrous

Posted: Thursday, December 04, 2003

KODIAK - State troopers are investigating a report of neglect filed early Wednesday by a veterinarian regarding cattle removed last week from Chirikof Island, according to Trooper Sven Skille.

Cattle owner Tim Jacobson hired veterinarian Kenny Brown to inspect the animals that arrived Nov. 30.

Brown recommended Monday that they be offloaded for seven to 10 days rest before further travel. The cattle's ultimate destination remains unclear.

Brown reported the situation as a case of animal neglect after seeing the cattle still aboard their cramped vessel Tuesday night.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered removal of the cattle to restore Chirikof Island's native ecosystem.

Jacobson told the Kodiak Daily Mirror on Tuesday that he wanted to respond to what he called ludicrous criticism, including reports in the press regarding treatment of the cattle. He said the animals are neither unhealthy nor particularly difficult to handle.

"I've heard a lot of pleas to save the cattle," he said.

The cattle and one horse remain on board a 74-foot landing craft at Lash Dock, where they arrived Sunday.

More than 40 animals were taken from Chirikof, an island 80 miles south of Kodiak, on Nov. 26.

At least two of the animals fell during a storm and were stepped on by other cattle and had to be killed. Jacobson sold or donated 13 cows in Old Harbor, where the vessel stayed for two days for repairs.

When Brown first inspected the cattle, he found them in good health despite the stress of a long transit. Their owner was not surprised, citing the herds freedom from common ills such as worms, pinkeye and hoof rot.

The Chirikof cattle have developed in isolation since the early 1900s, making them interesting to other ranchers. University of Alaska researchers have expressed interest in acquiring some for genetic study.

Jacobson said the herd is up to more than 1,500 head.

Jacobson has built new facilities for handling the herd on the southwest end of Chirikof Island and is carrying out repairs to older facilities on the northeast. Having two options for loading the cattle should make removing them easier.

Jacobson's permit to operate there expired Nov. 30, but Greg Siekaniec, head of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, said he would probably extend the permit for another year.

Jacobson called Siekaniec instrumental in helping to move the evacuation forward. Removal of the remaining cattle will probably have to wait until spring.

Mechanical problems and the islands remoteness have frustrated previous attempts.



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