Sometimes an experience is so strange, so out-of-the-normal, that it is hard to shake.
Covelo native son Jerry Hill visited his childhood home one Thanksgiving break in the late 1970s. He decided to go quail hunting on his family’s one-hundred-acre parcel and stumbled on one of those peculiar experiences that he remembers vividly to this day. In the middle of a field, Hill found a cow, mutilated in a way he had never seen before nor has ever seen since. He told his father, his father told law enforcement, and university researchers would take the dead creature away never to be heard of again.
Now 84-years-old, Hill told us his family has deep roots in Round Valley. In 1929 his parents built the Covelo Hotel, and before that, his family ran a stable and guide service that catered towards Bay Area Hunters that would take a train to Dos Rios and ride into the Yolla Bolly Wilderness for wild game.
As a young man, Hill ventured south to go to college, eventually becoming a teacher and then a school principal in Sonoma County. Now, he lives the retired life with his wife in Lincoln, California.
During one of his years in college, Hill ventured back to Round Valley during the Thanksgiving holiday to enjoy his family and food. At that time, the Hill family lived on a one-hundred-acre parcel located on the northeast side of the intersection of Covelo Road and East Lane.
The approximate location of the Hill Family’s 100-acre parcel
One day during his vacation, Hill got a hankering for a hike and a hunt. He left home taking along a shotgun for his adventures. As he walked along, a shape caught Hill’s eye in the middle of a field sparking his interest enough to approach.
There, in the middle of the field, Hill saw a sight still burned deeply in his memory.
There, lying on the ground, was a dead cow, with what he described as “a perfect circle of hide cut out of the side.” There were no other visible injuries and the wound looked as if “there were no knife marks or blood, just a perfect 10”-12” circle of hide.” The cow had not been dead long, Hill thought because it was not showing any signs of rigor mortis.
That evening, Hill told his father about his discovery. This led Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office deputies to respond and investigate. From Hill’s understanding, University of California, Davis researchers would ultimately come to Covelo and pick up the cow for research purposes.
After that weekend, Hill said his family never spoke of the discovery again. He never heard of investigatory conclusions on the part of law enforcement, nor the research findings from UC Davis.
We do know that in the early months of 1976 Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office livestock investigator Deputy Barron L. Hankes told multiple media outlets about a rash of cattle mutilations in Round Valley. In all, seven cattle died with wounds of unknown origins. The injuries found on the animals included having their “anus, genitalia, and tongues cut out, and…the teats of the utters cut off.” One of the animals had reportedly been “drained of blood.”
Deputy Hankes said investigations determined that “three of them were definitely mutilated by humans.” The location of all seven, mutilated in the Covelo Valley itself versus the hills or other parts of the county, indicated to Hankes that “it was like someone wanted us to find them.”
We have reached out to UC Davis’s Animal Science department in hopes to get ahold of an archival material they might have regarding the Covelo cattle mutilation research and will provide an update if it is made available.
Looking back, Hill remembers his quaint childhood home of Covelo calling it a “nice, productive farm community.” He said a lot has changed, but despite a half-century gone by, he sharply remembered that day, that field, and that strange sight of a cow who had been the victim of an unknown predator.