In the early 1970's, a disturbing new phenomenon was reported in the United States -- a phenomenon that spread across rural America baffling ranchers as well as law officers. Increasing numbers of livestock were found dead and mysteriously mutilated. This phenomenon began to receive considerable coverage by the media. In Colorado, it was the news story of the year in 1975. Articles appeared in national magazines, and several books were written on the subject.
According to some estimates, by 1979 10,000 head of cattle had been mysteriously mutilated. Of the states that have been affected by this phenomenon, New Mexico has been unusually "hard hit." Since 1975, over 100 cases have been reported. The New Mexico reports, like those from other parts of the country, describe the mutilations as being characterized by the precise surgical removal of certain parts of the animal, particularly the sexual organs and rectum. Predators, it is claimed, avoid the carcass, which is said to be devoid of blood. Mutilation accounts are often accompanied by sightings of strange helicopters or UFOs. The link between UFOs and the New Mexico incidents is further supported by the alleged discoveries of carcasses with broken legs and visible clamp marks, indicating to some investigators that the animals are being airlifted to another place where they are mutilated, and then returned to the spot where they are found. This belief in further supported by two additional reports -- one of a case in which the cowls horn was sticking in the ground as if the animal had been dropped there; the other of a steer "found in a tree five feet above the ground" (Coates 1980).
Although mutilations have been reported throughout the state, a large number of cases have occurred in Rio Arriba County, which is under the legal jurisdiction of the First Judicial District. According to information furnished to the district attorney's office, prior to this investigation, more than 60 mutilations have been reported in that county. This represents an estimated loss of $18,000 a sizeable amount for a county as economically distressed as Rio Arriba. The concern of those whose cattle have been victims of this phenomenon is understandable, especially when there seems to be no obvious motive for the crimes.
In response to the reactions of area residents, Eloy F. Martinez, district attorney for the First Judicial District, decided further investigation of this phenomenon was warranted. On the basis of available evidence, these livestock mutilations appeared to be a law enforcement problem, a belief shared by Senator Garrison Schmitt, who at that time was attempting to initiate a federal. investigation. By legal definition, however, the crime being committed is not a serious one; it's a misdemeanor. According to Section 30-18-2, New Mexico Statutes Annotated, 1978 Compilation, as amended:
"Whoever commits injury to animals is guilty of a
misdemeanor. Injury to animals consists of willfully
and maliciously poisoning, killing, or injuring any
animal or domesticated fowl, which is the property
On February 1, 1979, the district attorney's office, First Judicial District, submitted a grant proposal to the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) requesting $44,170 to fund an investigation of livestock mutilations in New Mexico. The grant was awarded in the spring. By that time the mutilation problem in New Mexico had catapulted into the national spotlight as the result of a special conference on livestock mutilations conducted by Senator Schmitt. Private investigators and law enforcement officers from more than ten states attended the conference, which was held April 20 in Albuquerque. It was several days after this highly publicized event that the district attorney's office received word the LEAA grant had been awarded.
I was hired shortly afterwards to direct the investigation, which was to begin May 28, 1979, and run through May 27, 1980. The grant specified that the project was to employ a director with at least 20 years of top level investigative experience who was familiar with and had access to the best testing laboratories and who also possessed established communication skills with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
In reviewing my background of experience, the district attorney felt I adequately met all the qualifications for the job. This background includes 28 years as a special agent of
of the FBI 10 years of which were in the counter espionage field, working against Soviet and Satellite Intelligence. The remaining 18 years were in the criminal field -- 15 of these devoted almost exclusively to investigating bank robberies and other major crimes of violence. My many experiences involved assignments both within and outside the continental United States.
I retired from the FBI in May 1979 and shortly afterwards assumed the role of director of investigations for Operation Animal Mutilation. At that time I had little knowledge about livestock mutilations, although I had read accounts of the phenomenon in the newspapers. However, right at the outset I decided to be very guarded in my comments to the media, a policy I had adopted during my years as an FBI agent. I do not believe that a professional investigation should be subject to possible influence by the media. Since Operation Animal Mutilation was a law enforcement investigation, I believed it wise to adopt a similar policy.
Also, I did not want to inadvertently furnish incomplete, erroneous, misleading or irresponsible information to the public through the media. After reviewing a collection of newspaper clippings, I felt that too many irresponsible statements had already been made about livestock mutilations. I also learned that in other states, the media had played a major role in alarming ranchers and farmers to the point where some of them had
formed vigilante committees. I did not want this to happen in New Mexico as the result of any remarks made by me.
Because of the beliefs associated with the phenomenon, I also felt that if it were reported I was investigating a "mutilation" -- and not knowing how each individual perceived the word "mutilation" -- the public might interpret that statement in terms of their own preconceived notions. Moreover, I wanted to see how the media would cover incidents without the benefit of my comments. In other words, I wanted to see if the media, itself, was a part of the problem. Most reporters, I believe, are sincerely concerned with accurately conveying the facts to the public; but in the case of livestock mutilations, who knew what the facts were? This is what I wanted to determine before any information was released to the media. Now that the investigation has been completed, I believe the public has the right to know my conclusions as well as the evidence on which they are based. This, then, is the major objective of this report.
Objectives and Procedures
When I began the investigation on May 28, 1979, I had five objectives:
(1) To determine the reliability of the information on which the grant was based. This entailed gathering as much information as possible about the cases reported in New Mexico prior to May 1979. Letters were written to every sheriff in the state requesting information. The state police was also contacted, and additional information was retrieved through media accounts and from the New Mexico Livestock Board.
(2) To determine the cause of as many mutilations as possible, especially those reported in New Mexico. During the course of this project, 27 incidents were reported. I conducted on-the-scene investigations of 15 of these cases. The remaining 12 incidents were investigated primarily by officers of the New Mexico State Police, the New Mexico Livestock Board, and deputies from sheriff's departments. one incident was not investigated since the notifying officer would not furnish sufficient details, including the location of the incident. To help interpret the evidence, I consulted experts from a number of different fields, including veterinarians, forensic pathologists, and mining engineers.
(3) To determine if livestock mutilations as described constitute a major law enforcement problem. Since it is a well-proved fact that predators and scavengers mutilate livestock, the chief criterion for human causation is the "precision surgical removal" of certain parts of the animal. Therefore, to be considered a major law enforcement problem, it must be shown that in a large number of cases, certain parts of the animal have been surgically removed, in violation of a law.
(4) If these mutilations do constitute a major law
1 For the sake of brevity, the term "human-induced" mutilation will be used to designate those mutilations performed with the aid of knives or other sharp instruments.
enforcement problem, to determine the scope of that problem and to offer recommendations on how to deal with it. To ascertain the extent of the mutilation phenomenon, I asked the governor of every state whether or not livestock mutilations had ever been a problem in that state. In addition to the information I received from these inquiries, I personally reviewed case files in Colorado, Nevada, and Arkansas. Valuable information was also provided by veterinarians connected with nine state animal diagnostic laboratories.
(5) If it is shown that the mutilation phenomenon is not a law enforcement problem, to recommend that no further law enforcement investigations be funded.
In executing this assignment, I have traveled thousands of miles, interviewed numerous people, and compiled a massive amount of material, including many photographs. To help me interpret this evidence, I have consulted experts from a variety of different fields. After laboriously weighing and analyzing the evidence, I have come to the conclusion that the vast majority of mutilations are caused by predators and scavengers.
I fully realize there are those, including other law enforcement officers, whose assessment of the situation may differ from mine and who will take exception to my findings. This is understandable. But I hope that they, and others concerned about the mutilation phenomenon, will take the time to read this report and to examine the evidence that so strongly supports my conclusions. It has not been my purpose or intent
to embarrass, criticize, or question the sincerity of anyone in regards to this investigation. My major objectives have been to investigate the phenomenon and to determine the cause of as many reported mutilations as possible. This, I feel, I have done.