Judge gives permission to remove emaciated cattle from ranch

The New Mexico Livestock Board received a judge's permission Friday to remove about 1,000 emaciated cattle from a drought-stricken ranch near Fort Sumner.

New Mexico Livestock Board officials served a search warrant at the sprawling Double V Ranch on May 17 and found at least 25 dead animals and others at risk of starving to death, according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

The owner of the ranch, Richard Evans, was charged with 25 counts of cruelty to animals Thursday evening. A number listed for Double V Ranch was a fax number. No other listing was found for Evans.

An official at the De Baca County jail said early Friday evening that Evans had not been booked at the facility.

Tim Rose, district attorney for the 10th Judicial District in Tucumcari, said he was working with board officials on a plan to care for the cattle if the herd is seized. Rose communicated in an email that the Livestock Board is making arrangements to deliver hay to the cattle in the morning.

Rose said Thursday seizing the cattle would take about 10 days. He said the size of the ranch, about 128,000 acres, would make it difficult to bring in all the cattle that are not corralled, and in the summer heat, seizing the cattle could put a strain on the already malnourished cattle.

Rose said Thursday contracts will have to be made with neighboring ranches or feedlots in Fort Sumner, Clovis and Roswell to house the cattle. He said

"It is going to be a major deal," said Ray Baca, interim director of the board. "We're not actually funded for this kind of a major crisis."

The board had 75 employees and a budget of $5.6 million in fiscal year 2013.

Board inspector Barry Allen wrote in an affidavit for the search warrant that he observed 25 to 30 dead cattle at two locations on the ranch from public roadways during a May 14 inspection.

About eight carcasses appeared to have been deteriorating for about six months, "indicative of the malnourishment being an ongoing issue on this ranch," Allen wrote.

Live cattle at the ranch were in poor condition and nursing calves appeared stunted, he wrote. Allen also said he asked Evans about the condition of his cattle.

"Mr. Evans indicated he was aware of the situation and reasoned that dry weather, and drought conditions, along with his wife's recent passing were all contributing factors to his inability to properly provide nourishment to livestock," Allen wrote.

Officials do not have a precise estimate of how many cattle rare on the ranch located about 25 miles south of Fort Sumner.

Evans also owns land in Texas and South America.

New Mexico is in its driest two-year period in nearly 120 years of record-keeping.

A tip to the state board alerted officials to the situation at the ranch, Rose said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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