A north-central Alberta couple is calling for answers after they stumbled upon 15 sheep carcasses on a rural road near their community.
Scott and Toni-Michelle Benteau found the sheep March 23 in Lamont County. Toni-Michelle said they were strewn across the side of Range Road 182 off Highway 16, about 65 kilometres east of Edmonton. RCMP are now involved and investigating the incident.
“We don’t know who they belong to, and it looks like someone tried to conceal where they came from by cutting their tags off,” Toni-Michelle said.
“It’s devastating and it’s tragic for those animals. Some were slit up, and they didn’t deserve to be disregarded like that.”
RCMP said they’re working with the province’s livestock investigator, who will examine the sheep and try to figure out where they came from and how they were killed. They couldn’t confirm that their tags were cut.
According to provincial regulations, producers are required to dispose of livestock in an acceptable manner. The government rules strongly support incinerating, composting, rendering or burying animals in a way that doesn’t cause a nuisance. Nuisances include odours, carcasses being visible and the attraction of scavengers, which can transmit disease.
As well, if producers suspect their livestock died from an infectious disease, they’re required to contact authorities and dispose them in a way that they recommend. If an animal has been euthanized, the regulations say producers must prevent scavengers from gaining access to it.
Anyone who doesn’t comply with the regulations can face a fine of up to $15,000 for the first offence. If they offend for the second time, they can face a fine of up to $30,000 or be jailed for up to one year. They could also face a combination of fines and jail time.
There are currently no bylaws in Lamont County that specifically address disposed livestock, said Terry Eleniak, an agricultural fieldman with the county, but there are laws that deal with unauthorized dumping on public lands.
“Animals aren’t named in that unauthorized dumping law yet, but that could change,” he said.
“I’m hoping the individual will step forward and the conscious will get the best of them. I’m hopeful RCMP, the livestock division and all parties involved can find a way of eliminating this from happening again.”
Eleniak said most producers in the county are diligent with disposal and follow the rules.
“We have educated thoroughly many times through our workshops and by word of mouth on the proper disposal of animals,” he said.
“The unfortunate part is that there’s one bad apple in the basket that’s painting it with negativity.”
Toni-Michelle agreed that her neighbours follow regulations.
“I can’t allow one person to defy the community that I live in,” she said.
“I have fantastic neighbours that raise their livestock, and they care about their animals.”
The RCMP will provide more information on the investigation when they have more details.