Local News

Officials Investigate Deaths Of Animals In Johnston County

Posted April 2, 2004 6:17 a.m. EST

— Federal and local investigators have a mystery on their hands. More than a dozen animals in Johnston County have died, and experts said it was not from natural causes.

Federal agents are on the case.

This week, Doug Holloman walked onto his family's field for the first time since November. That is where he discovered something gruesome.

He found three dead deer, three dogs and two foxes.

Holloman has a degree in environmental science, and he has farmed for years. He said he has never seen anything like this before.

"I knew it was a strange occurrence," Holloman said. "It was not normal to see this many dead animals in this close proximity to one another."

So, he called the Johnston County Sheriff's Office. Investigators there told him they were looking into a similar case just up the road.

The day before Holloman called, someone reported five dead animals to the United States Department of Agriculture. That federal agency is leading the investigation in both cases.

The USDA collected samples from the animals and the area where they were found. They sent those off to the FBI lab. Now, they are waiting on test results to determine exactly what killed the animals.

"I hope they find out pretty quickly," farmer Sandy Batten said.

Batten's family owns the farm across the street. He is worried about their cattle and sheep.

"We'd like to know what caused that," Batten said, "because we sure don't want any of our animals to die."

Holloman is concerned that if investigators do not find what or whoever is responsible for the animal deaths quickly, it could mean big trouble for the local environment.

Investigators will not speculate on what might have killed the animals. They expect to have test results early next week.