Dumping of animal carcasses deemed littering and can bring harsh punishments

Cattle wander through Golden Valley in this 2014 Daily Miner file photo.

Daily Miner file photo

Cattle wander through Golden Valley in this 2014 Daily Miner file photo.

GOLDEN VALLEY – Cattle ranching in Mohave County is a million-dollar industry and, for the most part, the ranchers in the county can be deemed good neighbors who always follow the county, state and federal laws and regulations.

However, there appears to be a select few ranchers who attempt to take shortcuts, and they have a history of illegally dumping animal carcasses onto Mohave County owned property, private property, BLM public lands and state trust lands.

If there is a vehicle-and-cow accident and the cow is killed, some ranchers have chosen to drag the carcasses off the road or right of way onto the land nearest to the accident scene. Ranchers must be figuring they’d leave the dead cows in the desert so other wildlife, such as coyotes and mountain lions, would have something to eat.

And, of course, they would not have to haul the remains to the local landfill for proper disposal. Because of these illegal actions, many other ranchers believe those actions have caused “a black eye” for all of them.

In the last month or so, six cows have been killed south of Highway 68 due to vehicle-and-cow accidents, and the rancher chose to drag the carcasses just off the road to leave them there to decompose. As part of a grazing permit with BLM for cattle, ranchers are required to maintain fencing and gates along BLM and private properties. There have been violations of these rules, and many cattle have run rampant through the valley on private property.

Arizona is designated as open range, and residents must fence in their properties if they do not want cattle devouring their vegetation and trampling their properties. Valley residents have complained some ranchers need to learn to be good neighbors. It is estimated there is more than 250 cattle roaming south of Highway 68 and because of the failure to have cattle herded back onto BLM public lands, some neighbors have had cattle break through fencing, which have freed their domestic animals that eat the hay and alfalfa that was for their domestic cattle, horses and goats.

What some of the ranchers are unaware of is if they leave a dead cow on any of the aforementioned properties, they can be criminally charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for littering depending upon the weight of the dead animal and location. They can also be charged with causing an environmental nuisance and may face some extremely stiff civil fines of up to $10,000 by the Mohave County government. Other criminal penalties from other government agencies can range upward to 12 months in jail and a fine up $100,000.

According to county officials, it is much cheaper for someone to take the dead animal carcasses to the landfill for proper disposal and save themselves from possibility facing criminal charges and large civil fines. Mohave County is not accepting the litter (they consider dumping dead cows as litter) problem as just a fact of life. The Mohave County Parks Department has a program called Environmental Rural Area Cleanup Enforcement (ERACE) that deals with the continuing problem.

“Since the beginning of 2018, we have turned more cases over to be prosecuted than we did all of last year,” said Todd Davison of ERACE.

“Dumping trash and dead animals on Bureau of Land Management public lands is handled on a case-by-case basis,” said Deliris Garcia, the public information officer for BLM in Arizona.

Depending upon the severity of the case, the perpetrator could be charged criminally and also receive a civil fine. BLM officials consider littering and illegally dumping a serious problem.

“The maximum allowable punishment an individual can receive under federal law for an illegal dumping incident on BLM public lands is 12 months in jail and a $100,000 fine,” Garcia said. One caveat is if a rancher finds one of his cattle or horse dead on BLM public lands, he or she can call the BLM and tell them they plan on burying the animal.

The penalties for illegal dumping of animal carcasses and trash on Arizona State Trust lands can be expensive for the perpetrator with fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 for the first offense. Subsequent offenses within one year can bring a fine of $500 to $1,500; illegally dumping animal carcasses and trash in National Parks such as Lake Mead National Recreation Area can be just as expensive to those who violate the law.

If a burro is hit by a vehicle, the prudent thing is to call the BLM to have the dead animal removed. The Kingman Field Office number is 928- 718-3700 and the Lake Havasu Field Office number is 928-505-3700.

If someone happens to see someone illegally dumping animal carcasses or trash on county property, private property, a national Park, BLM public land or Arizona State Trust land, they should write down the description of the person or persons illegally dumping, the description of their vehicle, the vehicle’s license plate number, the location where the illegal dumping occurred and the time and date of the incident. And if they have a camera with them, take a picture of the culprits, the vehicle being used and after the illegal dumpers leave the area, a photo of the trash that was dumped illegally. The more information provided to governing law enforcement personnel and agencies, the better chances the perpetrators will be caught and prosecuted. Never attempt to contact or confront the person or persons illegally dumping.