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Idaho rancher under investigation in death of cows

An Idaho rancher says 29 of his cows died in winter storms in Washington state, but investigators suspect he let them starve.

The Tri-City Herald reports 42-year-old James Peter Marek of Slate Creek, Idaho, appeared in Franklin County Superior Court this week after being arrested for investigation of animal cruelty.

He filed a claim with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in February saying he lost an unspecified number of cows. The Washington State Dairy Association estimates 1,800 dairy cows died during the blizzard on Feb. 9 and 10, at an estimated loss of $3.5 to $4 million.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said investigators found no sign that Marek’s cows had been provided any food and there were no tire tracks in the snow suggesting they’d been attended to.

Marek’s attorney, Scott Johnson, said there’s no evidence of what caused the deaths because no necropsies have been conducted. A judge ordered Marek released from custody Thursday.

County prosecutor Shawn Sant said the investigation is ongoing.

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