Amtrak Train Kills 24 Rare Cows Near Klamath Falls, Ore.; Rancher Says Rail Companies Refuse to Maintain Fences

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The cows' body parts were strewn along the tracks for a mile and a half. Bruce Topham, owner of the Flying T Salers ranch in Klamath Falls, Ore., and the 24 cattle that were killed, tells Seattle Weekly that the Amtrak train "sliced some of them right in half."

He also says that the reason his prized cows were killed in the first place is a problem indicative of the railroad companies' entire outlook on keeping proper fences up. And the dangers stemming from this problem may not always end with only dead cows.

"[Union Pacific] would rather pay for dead cows than maintain the fences," Topham tells us. "It's an economic decision."

Under Oregon and Washington law, railroad companies are responsible for building and maintaining fences along the tracks. In the incident involving Topham's cattle (first reported by The Oregonian), the cows had escaped through a bit of railroad-maintained fence that had fallen over.

Topham, who raises very rare and highly prized salers cattle, says he has no doubt that he'll be compensated for his lost cows. But he also says that some of those cows--particularly a prized bull he'd hope to use for breeding--are irreplaceable.

"These were members of our family," Topham says. "You can't put a dollar value on a member of your family."

Topham also says that he has told Union Pacific, the company that operates the tracks, about their shoddy fences every year for four years now, and that every year they say they'll do something about it, but never do.

He thinks the company would rather just reimburse people for lost livestock than pay to keep their miles of fences maintained.

Seattle Weekly reached out to Union Pacific about Topham's claim. We haven't heard back yet.

Perhaps most concerning about cattle on railroad tracks is that it's not just cows that can be put in danger.

Enough cows on the tracks can derail a train, as it did here in New Zealand, here in Spain, and here in India, where some 68 people were killed.

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