Lightning strike kills northern Colorado rancher, more than 30 cattle

A truck drives through rural Jackson County, which borders Wyoming. (Kyle Spradley for KHN)

A lightning strike killed a Jackson County rancher and more than 30 of his cattle Saturday afternoon as the man tossed hay from the back of a trailer, the local coroner said Sunday.

Mike Morgan, 51, was feeding his herd as the strike hit, killing him and knocking the 100 or so cows and calves standing around the trailer off their feet, said George Crocket, coroner for the rural county in far northern Colorado.

“The 32 cattle did not get back up,” Crocket said.

“As best I can tell, it hit him on the trailer. The cattle were bunched up around the trailer and it hit them all.”

Morgan’s father-in-law was driving a tractor hooked to the trailer when the lightning struck, and Morgan’s wife was nearby, leading horses toward a horse trailer to load them. They had just finished branding day, a spring event typically attended by neighbors and friends who help rope and hold calves for branding.

A storm blew in just after 2 p.m. as they had finished branding and were starting to feed the cattle, Crocket said. The death is devastating for the community surrounding the ranch, which is outside the town of Rand, he said.

It was one of the worst lightning strikes Crocket has seen in his lifetime in the area. A single strike once killed seven cattle at his grandfather’s ranch, he said. “I’ve seen horses get killed, but it’s usually one at a time,” the coroner said.

Morgan was on the board of the North Park Stockgrowers Association and had spoken up for ranchers regarding the reintroduction of wolves, which have killed multiple cows since being set loose in December.

Morgan told Steamboat Radio in 2022 that ranchers needed to try to educate people across the state, and especially the next generation, about the ranching industry.

“We need to get our way of life out to the people because they don’t understand our livelihood, the emotional impact and the financial impact,” he said.

The strike was first reported by Steamboat Radio reporter Shannon Lukens.

Jennifer Brown/Colorado Sun


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