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Man charged after sheriff says he found cows starved to death

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MOORE — A Butte County man appeared in court Thursday after the county sheriff said the man let over a dozen cattle starve to death over the winter.

Russell H. Babcock, 49, was charged with 13 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, months after Butte County Sheriff Dave Hansen forwarded a report to prosecutors.

According to court documents, Hansen received an anonymous phone call on Feb. 23 to investigate something on property owned by the Babcock Family just off Arco Highway.

Hansen drove to the property and saw approximately 40 head of cattle standing near the gate.

“All of the cattle I saw were very thin and malnourished,” Hansen says in his report. He notes a small amount of hay in the area, but no water.

“There was also a dead cow laying near the hay scattered about,” Hansen writes. “The dead cow appeared to have died recently … All of the cows were extremely thin. Their hip bones and back bones stood out horribly and most looked on the verge of dying.”

Hansen later learned the cattle belonged to Babcock.

A witness told Hansen he saw “a few” dead cattle believed be owned by Babcock. Hansen drove to reported area of the dead cattle and observed more dead cows.

“Once I arrived at the area where the cows had been, I observed numerous other dead cows in the same condition (emaciated),” Hansen writes. “Several were piled on top of each other, most likely in an attempt to stay warm.”

Hansen observed many of the cows still alive but “not in much better shape” and “watched as one of them drank urine from a small puddle on the ground.”

Babcock told Hansen he had trouble getting hay to the cattle because of the snow. According to court documents, he told Hansen he hadn’t taken water to the cattle in “a long time” because he didn’t have a tank.

Hansen told Babcock he needed to provide feed and water for his horses “immediately” and shouldn’t be afraid to ask for others for help.

A family member helped move the cattle to his home Feb. 25 so he could more easily care for them. Hansen found two more cows dead at Babcock’s house two days later, but this time the cattle did have feed and water.

A pretrial conference for Babcock is scheduled for Aug. 22.