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Rancher, authorities puzzled by severed calf's head on post

What appears to be a dead Angus yearling calf's head is mounted on a fence post with a "Private Property" sign in a ditch of near Howard Newton's ranch north of Dickinson on Wednesday. Newton and authorities are puzzled at who put the head there and why.

Motorists traveling on a rural road just north of Dickinson on Wednesday encountered a disturbing and, so far, unexplained scene.

The apparently severed head of what appeared to be an Angus yearling calf was displayed ominously on a stake along 112th Ave. SW about two miles north of the city limits that eventually turns into State Avenue when entering Dickinson city limits.

The head was mounted above a "Private Property" sign that serves as an outline to Howard Newton's ranch, though the landowner said Wednesday he doesn't know how or why the head was placed on his sign.

"I first saw it a day or two ago, but it was on the ground when I saw it originally," Newton said. "After that, I noticed that someone had elevated it to new heights. I have no idea what it's all about. I figured someone was having fun with it, so I thought I'd let them."

Capt. Dean Franchuk of the Stark County Sheriff's Office said the department was looking into the matter, but he added he was unaware of any reports of missing cattle in the area. A passerby early Wednesday afternoon said he hadn't noticed the head until it was pointed out to him.

The only identifying markers on the head was an orange tag on the right ear, indicating that the calf had been vaccinated for brucellosis, reading "45 VCF 1685 NDBVCAC."

Newton said he didn't plan to take the head down. Newton added he tends to horses on his property but does not own cattle.

"That's the least of our concern out here," he said. "We get more garbage in this area than you can shake a stick at. Out here is an area where people go boonie cruising. Somebody probably saw the head on the ground and thought it would be funny to put it on that post. I can't imagine why that thing is where it is or where it came from."

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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