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Stolen goat returned unharmed to students
Bella the goat after she was returned after Sunday's theft from the CUSD student farm. - photo by Photo Contributed

Central Valley High School agriculture students suffered a troubling loss over the weekend when Bella, a 10-month-old breeding goat, went missing from the Ceres Unified School District Farm.

Surveillance video showed Bella being dragged out of her locked pen by six hooded thieves Sunday night. No vehicle was seen entering or exiting the property and agriculture teacher Ken Moncrief believed the thieves may have walked in from a nearby area.

Bella was housed on the 6.5-acre facility in Ceres where students receive hands-on experience with agriculture-related fields including animal science.

Monday night, after video and still images from Bella’s mysterious abduction were posted on social media and released to news media, the thieves apparently had a change of heart and returned the animal. Bella was slightly dehydrated and had minor injuries to her back legs, but is expected to make a full recovery.

“An odd story but a happy ending,” commented Beth Jimenez, communications specialist for CUSD.

Bella reappeared in much the same manner that she was taken. At approximately 10 p.m., four hooded individuals are seen on surveillance video returning to the farm with Bella, who breaks away and runs to her pen, where she is eagerly greeted through the rails by her herd-mates. Rather than flee the scene, the four stayed to deposit Bella safely back in the enclosure.

After Bella went missing students and staff who have cared for the young goat most of her life feared the worst.

Teacher Jessica Cardoso said she had cried all day not knowing if Bella was “safe, hurt, scared, or even alive.” 

“This is a very positive outcome,” said Cardoso. “We were all beside ourselves with grief and frustration, and had almost lost hope.  My students are so thankful that she is back, and relieved that they can continue to care for her.” 

Surveillance video captured this still of the men who stole Bella the goat from Ceres Unified School District property on Sunday evening. They returned it the next day. - photo by Photo Contributed

Cardoso also expressed gratitude to the community and local media for sharing Bella’s story, which she believes led to the goat’s safe return.  “They truly made a difference in encouraging the thieves to return her.”

Bella will be checked out by a veterinarian, and will continue her adventures helping students learn at the CUSD Farm.

The animal is valued at about $500 and was purchased using proceeds from a student internship program at the farm. Students devote about two hours each day tending to Bella and her herd-mates, feeding and grooming them, and cleaning pens.

Pre-kindergarten through third-grade students from schools throughout the CUSD visited with Bella during a harvest festival at the farm just a few weeks ago.