Wildlife refuge officers search for longhorn calf thieves - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Wildlife refuge officers search for longhorn calf thieves

(Source Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge) (Source Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge)

WICHITA MOUNTAINS WILDLIFE REFUGE, OK (KSWO) - Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge officers fear a two-week old longhorn calf was stolen from the refuge over the weekend, and they need the public's help in finding whoever took it.

Officers are on the lookout for a large, red pickup with mud tires that was spotted near the trail where the calf was last seen. They have received many calls from refuge visitors with information that will hopefully lead to the calf's safe return.

Deputy Manager Ralph Bryant says they get more reports of people poaching or cutting holes in the refuge's fences to let the animals out to hunt, and says taking an animal away in your car is fairly uncommon. While the officers search for the thieves, they are left wondering why someone would do this.

"If they thought maybe the calf was injured and needed help, that would be one reason,” said Bryant. “The other would be just simply they wanted to take a calf home with them and have a longhorn calf."

The longhorn calf was sitting next to the Osage Lake trail in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge when Bryant believes it was snatched up and taken away in a large, red pickup Sunday afternoon.

Bryant checked up on the calf multiple times that day after visitors were worried it might be sick. He came out to check on the calf one last time that evening, and when he pulled up he saw suspicious tire tracks at this trail where vehicles are not allowed to enter.

"It was pretty evident that they had driven over the barrier rocks, beyond the gate into an area where they don't belong and picked up the calf and left,” said Bryant.

Bryant says they are relying on refuge visitors to help catch the calf-nappers. They got a call from a couple that gave them clues as to where the truck went after the calf was taken.

"They said hey we seen on Facebook and on the news about this baby longhorn calf,” said Bryant. “We just happen to be following a big, red four wheel drive vehicle and we thought it had a dog in the back of it. When we got a little closer we said that's not a dog, it's a calf!"

The couple spotted the pickup inside the refuge, and then again at the travel stop at the Medicine Park I-44 exit where the refuge officers are looking into the stop's surveillance footage.

Bryant says they have received even more tips from visitors on Monday, and is hoping that one of them will lead them to the calf.

Stealing from the wildlife refuge is a federal offense. The offenders could serve up to one year in jail, and pay up to $100,000 in fines.

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