Whidbey News Group photo Wednesday afternoon, North Whidbey resident John Wallace visits with Buster, a mule that suffered a mysterious eye injury earlier this month.

Animal mutilations terrifying Whidbey Island family

A North Whidbey family is feeling terrorized by a prowler they believe injured livestock on their small farm over the last month.

John Wallace, who lives south of Oak Harbor, said the death of a mule and mysterious injuries to two others led him to put up game cameras, one of which captured an eerie photo of someone with a flashlight in the middle of the property at night.

“It’s devastating. It’s terrorizing,” he said. “We feel like hostages.”

The family’s story, as well as photos, is circulating on social media all over Whidbey Island. Wallace said he’s received more than 30 offers of help from people who saw his posts as he plots ways to catch the perpetrator.

Island County Animal Control Officer Carol Barnes was at the farm this week to speak with Wallace and look at the evidence. She said she couldn’t comment on the ongoing investigation.

The family of five had seven mules, which Wallace described as their “four-legged kids.” The big animals — the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse — are reliable, sure-footed animals that for a strong bond with their humans, Wallace said.

Wallace said trouble started on Jan. 26 when he noticed Buster, the biggest of the mules, had an eye swollen shut. On closer inspection, he found the eye was lacerated from some kind of blunt-force trauma. A week and a half later, a mule named Lotta started limping. He found an perfectly straight “incision” on her right flank while a leg on the other side was swollen.

A veterinarian sutured Buster’s eyeball and Lotta’s flank and both have healed, though Lotta’s leg is still swollen. Wallace said he thought at first the injuries were accidental, though he couldn’t figure out how they could have happened.

Then an older but “very healthy” mule named Tucker mysteriously dropped dead, he said. Wallace wasn’t able to determine the cause of death because there was no trauma and the cost of a necropsy is prohibitive.

Wallace said he found evidence that an intruder had been on the farm, including cut fences and an unplugged fence charger.

A game camera caught an image of an intruder, but the person’s face is obscured because of the glare of a flashlight. Wallace moved the cameras to different areas but only caught images that appear to be flashlights.

Tuesday night, Wallace’s son scared away a stranger from the farm just before 8 p.m., Wallace said.

He’s called 911 three times about the incidents, he said, but he understands that deputies with the Island County Sheriff’s Office are stretched thin and limited in what they can do. The property is surrounded by other farms with livestock that haven’t had any problems, he said.

Wallace said he’s convinced that the animals’ injuries and the trespassing on his property are related. He believes that someone is targeting his farm — or perhaps his mules — for a reason unknown to him. His hope, he said, is to catch the “sick” person he believes has been hurting his oversized pets.

“I’m really just filled with rage,” he said, adding that he hasn’t slept well in days. “Just pure rage.”

Whidbey News Group photo Wednesday afternoon, North Whidbey resident John Wallace visits with Buster, a mule that suffered a mysterious eye injury earlier this month.

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