Reichmuth Park offers fields of green grass, a playground, and a wooded trail where people walk their dogs or run.
But the peaceful park became the latest dumping site of a decapitated animal, after the body and head of a beheaded lamb was found in a paper bag in the South Land Park site on Tuesday. The discovery prompted an investigation into a series of dead animals found in local parks in the last two months, according to Gina Knepp of Sacramento Animal Care Services.
The event also drew disgust from nearby residents and others who visit Reichmuth Park, some with their children.
Tuesday’s discovery was the fifth incident in a string of dead creatures found in the recreation area and the third confirmed incident of an animal’s beheading. The first such animal, found Jan. 8, was described in reports as a decapitated goat in a cardboard box. The second finding was of eight to 12 headless chickens in several paper bags found Jan. 11 by South Land Park resident Zann Gates. On Jan. 28., Gates found a second paper bag with at least one dead chicken in it. On Feb. 1, a dead tortoise was found in the park, but the report doesn’t mention decapitation, Knepp said.
Gates said she called 311 and a park maintenance worker came out to dispose of the first set of chicken remains. The second bag she found was still in the park on Friday; the bag and the contents have mostly disintegrated.
“I thought, you know, I’m a carnivore and these are supermarket animals, why should I get upset?” Gates said, adding she and her husband often pick up trash they see in the park. “But as a citizen walking in a park, we just thought it was more trash for us to pick up,” until they opened the bags.
The apparent trend went unnoticed by Sacramento Animal Care Services until the most recent discovery because the remains were reported to different agencies, like Parks and Recreation. Gates said the park ranger she spoke with thought the dead chickens were left by an owner who wanted to get rid of them quickly.
Animal officials began to link the events when a woman walking in the park Tuesday found another dead animal, which Knepp said looks like a lamb from the pictures she’s seen. Knepp brought the issue to the attention of dispatchers across the city so Animal Care Services will be alerted if additional animals are found there.
Cheri Mattyas, 28, was in the park on Friday with her two children, ages 3 and 6, and will continue to take her children there, despite her concern about the dead animals. Her family recently moved near Reichmuth Park.
“It’s pretty disgusting,” Mattyas said of the discoveries. “It’s not good for the kids.”
Alex Luperini said he walks through the park nearly every day but has never seen any decapitated animals. When he first heard about the chickens, he thought someone dumped cooked leftovers. The lamb changes things, he said.
“But it’s obviously something else,” Luperini, 27, said. “It’s getting pretty disgusting.”
Gates said she wondered if the killings were related to some sort of religious ritual involving animal sacrifice, but she said it’s impossible to know.
“Hopefully it will stop soon,” she said while walking in the park on Friday.
Anyone with information can call animal control by dialing 311 inside city limits or (916) 264-5011 outside city limits.
Call The Bee’s Ellen Garrison at (916) 321-1006.