Reports of cows being released at farms in China are under investigation by the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, which also is probing whether the incidents are related to acts of vandalism that occurred last week in Clinton.

According to sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Moody, a farmer on Stanley Hill Road discovered some of his cows had been released from their pen. One lock was discovered broken and another lock was missing, Moody said. The incident was reported to police at 9:10 a.m. Tuesday.

Moody said he didn’t recall how many cows had been let out, but said it was “enough to cause concern.” He did say it wasn’t nearly as many as in the Clinton incident that occurred last week, in which hundreds of cows were let out from the Misty Meadow Farm.

The FBI called Clinton police Wednesday morning to offer assistance should they need it, and to inquire about the department’s leads. According to Clinton police Senior Patrol Officer Karl Roy, the FBI wanted to know if there was any indication the culprits were extreme environmental or animals’ rights groups. Roy said the signs point to juveniles, not extreme groups.

“Quite often when you’re dealing with these extreme groups, they’ll want you to know they did it,” he said, explaining that they often will declare they did the damage, and that hasn’t happened.

In Clinton, two separate incidents occurred on the same night involving cows. According to Roy, the first incident occurred on the night of Nov. 29 or early in the morning Nov. 30, and about 150 milking cows were released from their pen. The cows were discovered by workers and returned to their pen.

Then, a few hours later, about 500 cows were released from their pen. One cow fell into a drainage hole and died from a broken neck. The offenders in that case also stole two headlights from a truck in a garage, meat from a freezer and a BB or pellet gun, which they probably used to shoot a trailer window. They also turned off stainless steel cooling tanks for milk. The tanks were turned back on and the milk saved, but had it spoiled, it would have amounted to a loss of around $10,000.

Clinton police think the suspects then went to a nearby farm and shot out four streetlights and moved a tractor.

Moody said authorities have not ruled out the possibility the China and Clinton cases are related and that law enforcement agencies are working together.

Moody said they also resemble an incident that occurred “in the last week or so.” on a farm on Pleasant View Ridge Road in China. He said an unspecified number of cows were released from their pen there as well.

“We don’t think it’s an isolated incident at this point,” Moody said, adding that police were looking into possible suspects and motives.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

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Twitter: @colinoellis