NEW GLOUCESTER — David Trafford has spent the last two weeks wandering the woods around New Gloucester looking for some sign of his two missing Hereford heifers.
"I think I covered all of it that first week," Trafford said. "I'm still going, but now I'm just walking the woods for no reason."
He's found no sign of them since they disappeared from his Woodman Road property two weeks ago Tuesday — no tracks, nothing.
"I'd like to think, still, that they're out there and not stuck in someone's freezer by now," Trafford said. "But you never know."
Trafford thinks that some sort of human intervention is the most likely cause at this point. It's not easy for two red-and-white cows, 400 pounds each, to just disappear.
But that's apparently what has happened.
Trafford and his family were working on building a small herd with four cows, three females and a steer. One female is being bred at another ranch. Trafford said he last fed the others on Aug. 30, then went to bed.
He woke up the next morning to find his steer standing in the middle of his driveway.
"One of my kids left the gate open or . . . ," he said, pausing. "No matter what, the gate was open when I woke up."
He shooed the male back into his pen and went off in search of the two females.
"Initially, I walked all around the pasture, but then spent the next three days trying to find them," he said. His daughter made a "lost heifers" flier — complete with a generic picture of a Hereford cow — and he began posting it in area stores and businesses.
"I figured someone would call right off, and say 'Come get your cows! They're eating my tulips,'" he said. "It hasn't happened yet."
He doubts that coyotes, rumored to wander the area, are to blame.
"They're too big, I think," he said. "I think a coyote would have a hard time stopping a cow of that size, unless she were stuck in the mud or something."
Both cows have red hides and white faces. One has a red ring around one eye. Neither wear an ear tag or any other kind of identifying brand.
"I just never thought it was necessary," he said. "I only had the four, and I could tell them all apart. But I guess I'm going to get ear tags from now on."
Both cows are a little older than a year, and he estimates they'd be worth between $500 and $700. His plan was to breed them and build up a small herd.
"That was going to be my retirement," he said. "By then I hoped to have a half-dozen cows or so and that would be something to do. Now, I guess I'm starting over from scratch."