IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -- Law enforcement personnel can generally come up with a motive for most crimes, but when it comes to why someone would shoot a cow, your guess is as good as anybody's.
Matt Thompson, whose ranch bordering Bonneville and Bingham counties has lost 10 head of cattle to gun shots in two months, is perplexed.
First he thought the culprits might have been inebriated teenagers out looking for a thrill. Now he suspects the killings are the work of someone familiar with the cattle industry.
Several of the dead cows were victims of a single shot from a .22-caliber rifle, which typically isn't powerful enough to take down a 600-plus-pound animal. The shooters know what they're doing, Thompson said, and the destruction produces drastic results for his family's business.
""They shouldn't be messing with someone else's livelihood,"" he said, adding that 10 dead cows mean his ranch is out $15,000.
Local law enforcement officials have taken notice of the damage Thompson and other ranchers have suffered and hope to curtail the problem.
On Tuesday, Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde and Bingham County Sheriff Dave Johnson announced the creation of a joint range deputy program.
The range deputies, Idaho Cattle Association members for the most part, will look for suspicious activity around their property and report license plate numbers to the proper authorities.
Both counties already have range deputy programs - Bingham for four years and Bonneville County since the summer - but combining forces provides additional manpower. Thirty-one range deputies will be on the lookout.
""It makes good common sense to work together,"" Wilde said.
Johnson said the joint program will help provide surveillance of crimes that often occur at night, making them difficult to catch.
""It's like, how many people do you catch littering on your highways?"" Johnson said.
Neither agency has made any arrests this year for cow shootings. There were 13 cases of it in 2007 and three this year in Bonneville County, according to the sheriff's office.
The crime, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison plus a maximum $50,000 fine, has spread throughout the valley as well.
In Clark County, for instance, Sheriff Craig King put out a news release last week stating that two calves were shot and one bull mutilated on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land since Aug. 31. On Tuesday, King said three more cattle were shot since then.
Once these cattle are shot, they're worthless unless the carcasses are recovered within an hour. After that, the meat is spoiled.
The Idaho Cattle Association and Bonneville Cattleman's Association are offering cash rewards to anyone with information leading to the arrest of someone who kills or steals cattle. Thompson said he wasn't comfortable revealing the sum of the reward money.
Wilde said his office will work diligently to catch the culprits behind the shootings, which he equates to poaching.
""These guys are killing for the fun of it,"" he said.
Reporter Phil Davidson can be reached at 542-6750.
Reward being offered for shooting information
The Bonneville Cattleman's Association and the Idaho Cattle Association are offering cash rewards for information leading to the arrest of someone caught stealing or killing livestock.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call Bonneville County's Crime Stoppers at 522-1983.
In addition, if you have any information about the cattle shootings in Clark County, the sheriff's office wants to hear from you. Call (208) 374-5403.