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Cows at Calif. Ranch Run Off Cliff

May 15, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A dozen Holstein cows grazing near Skywalker Ranch in Marin County apparently got spooked and ran off a 50-foot cliff, according to authorities.

Motorists on Lucas Valley Road saw the cows cascade over the hilltop at about 11 a.m. Wednesday, said Marin County Sheriff’s Sgt. Doug Pittman.

Some of the cows tumbled end-over-end as they slid down the slate and gravel cliff, witnesses told sheriff’s deputies.

It was unclear what caused the stampede, but the young heifers were likely scared by something, said John Reese, a spokesman for the Marin Humane Society.

``It can be noises, it can be other animals, wildlife or dogs, another member of the herd doing something,″ he said. ``They’re very sensitive to things like that.″

Two of the cows were shot on the spot by a sheriff’s deputy, Pittman said. The others were taken back to their owners at Silveira Ranch and were checked by a veterinarian.

``It’s something that spooked them very badly. They’ll break fences but not go off cliffs,″ said Lorraine Silveira, whose family owns Silveira Ranch, which has been operating for more than 100 years.

The land is owned by George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, and is leased as grazing land by the Silveira family, Silveira said.

``That’s never, never happened before,″ she said. ``It’s not something you like to see happen to innocent animals.″

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