Winter 1975 - Spring 1979

When the district attorney's office submitted its grant proposal to LEAA in early 1979, there was reason to believe that livestock mutilations in New Mexico were a law enforcement problem. Moreover, the problem appeared to be a serious one both in terms of its economic impact on livestock owners and in the fear it had generated among rural residents. Information obtained from such residents together with material gleaned from newspapers, magazines, and other available reports seemed to indicate these mutilations were being perpetrated by highly skilled individuals with considerable financial backing.

To distinguish these mutilations from the sloppier work of predators and scavengers, the term "classic mutilation soon came into popular usage. A classic mutilation is characterized by the following traits:

(1) The surgically precise removal of certain parts of the animal. As one writer explains, the term "mutilation" is actually "inappropriate to describe the extremely precise and delicate surgery performed on these animals" (Perkins 1979: 20). The parts most commonly removed are the sexual organs, one eye, one ear, tongue, and in female animals, the udder.

(2) A perfectly cored anus, as though a large cookie cutter was used to perform the operation.

(3) A lack of blood, indicating that the animal has



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been deliberately drained of its fluid.

(4) The unusual rate of decay of the carcass. The carcass decays either extremely slowly or extremely rapidly. In most cases, the usual "death odors" are absent.

(5) The deliberate selection of certain types of livestock. The New Mexico victims have been described as healthy, native-grown livestock.

(6) The absence of human or tire tracks at the scene.

(7) Deliberate avoidance of the carcass by other animals. Animals who do approach the carcass usually circle at a safe distance. Although flies may avoid the body, dead ones are occasionally found on the carcass.

(8) The sighting of strange lights or aircraft within the vicinity of a reported mutilation. In New Mexico, these aircraft have been variously described as UFOs or helicopters.

(9) Unusual reaction of family pets. On the night a mutilation occurs, the family dog, which usually barks at everything, is exceptionally quiet.

In this chapter I will briefly sketch the popular history of livestock mutilations in New Mexico. I do this for two reasons: (1) To show the type of information on which the district attorney based his decision to apply for a LEAA grant, and (2) to indicate the general climate of opinion and belief that prevailed when I assumed the role of project director in May 1979. The material presented here is drawn primarily from newspaper and magazine articles, most of which would have been



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readily available to New Mexicans. In short, any resident who has followed the mutilation phenomenon through local newspapers and magazines will probably be familiar with the incidents discussed here.

1975 Incidents

In 1975, a number of ranchers, many of whom lived on the eastern plains of New Mexico, reported finding their cattle mysteriously dead and mutilated. By the fall, the problem was considered serious enough that the New Mexico Livestock Board requested assistance from Los Alamos scientific Laboratory (LASL) to help determine the cause of death of these animals. According to an article published in the Albuquerque Journal, "in most cases... inspectors have found no blood and no tracks at the scene to indicate the cause of death." The article does point out, though, that most of the carcasses were not fresh enough "where we [livestock inspectors] could determine anything about them" (Cohea 1975).

Accompanying some of the reported mutilations were sightings of unidentified aircraft, particularly helicopters.

       "We [Livestock Board] had reports that someone said 
       they saw a helicopter the day before the mutilated bull 
       was found near Abiquiu, and in the areas of Clayton, 
       Raton, and Tucumcari there have been reports of lots of 
       helicopters. But we haven't tied helicopters in with the 

In the years to follow, such sightings continued to be linked with mutilations.



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1976 Incidents

The mutilation phenomenon escalated in 1976, according to some reporters. In addition, the target of mutilations seemed to shift from the eastern plains to northern New Mexico. Dulce, a small community in northern Rio Arriba County, received considerable attention that year as the result of an incident reported June 13. The case, which was investigated by the cattle inspector and a law enforcement officer, involved the discovery of a mutilated cow belonging to an area rancher. What made this "mutilation" so unusual was its alleged association with "a mysterious trail of suction cup-like impressions" (Albuquerque Tribune 1976).

In a story which appeared in the June 15 issue of the Albuquerque Tribune, the victim is described as a three-year-old cow, its sexual organs, ear, tongue, and lower lip having been removed with a sharp instrument. The article goes on to say there is no indication how the animal died. There was no sign of a struggle, only the strange tracks and an unknown oily substance, which the officer recovered from the ground near the carcass.

The article describes the track as consisting of a series of tripod-like indentations, each of which was approximately four inches in diameter and twenty-eight inches from the other two tracks. Each series of tripod marks were said to be about 28 inches apart. The law officer claimed that "the trail ended about 500 feet from the animal carcass, 'as if they had



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landed at that point, gone to the cow, and then returned to that point.' The article further reports that the owner had gone back to the area the next day and "found more depressions on top of the tire tracks made by his truck the day before."

Although mutilations were subsequently reported in other parts of the state, none seemed to generate as much interest or speculation as the Dulce incident. The story was covered not only in local and state newspapers, but also was circulated to other areas via United Press International (UPI). An account of the incident later appeared in different magazines, including UFO Report (Nelson 1978) and Alberta Report (1979). This case is also important in that it marks the first in a series of similar incidents investigated in the Dulce area. These cases, some of which involved the same rancher, were investigated in 1978.

1977 Incidents

After the rash of incidents that were investigated in 1976, 1977 was a very slow year in terms of the number of reported mutilations. Only a handful of cases were investigated. Nevertheless, livestock mutilations were still a newsworthy topic. In fact, that fall Fritz Thompson (1977), a reporter for the Albuquerque Journal, published a major article in Impact, the journal's magazine. In this article, Thompson discusses some of the major mutilation cases that have been investigated, drawing heavily from Colorado. He also summarizes the major theories



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that had been advocated to account for the phenomenon. The impact this article had on the public is difficult to assess, but within the next few months more mutilations were reported.

1978 Incidents

In 1978 there was a dramatic increase in the number of reported mutilations. Some of the most publicized cases again occurred within the vicinity of the little community of Dulce. On April 24, the same rancher who had been "victimized" in 1976, found his 11-month-old bull dead, its sex organs and rectum missing. The investigating officer removed the liver "and it was all white and felt like mush" (Thompson 1978a). The Albuquerque Journal referred to the case as a "classic mutilation." Tracks similar to those found in the 1976 case were also reported.

       "I'm [investigating officer] confused as hell. Whether it's 
       human or something else, they cut that animal and it was 
       not a cow or horse or predator that left those tracks."

According to the article, no scavengers had even touched the carcass (Thompson 1978a).

This incident was also accompanied by reports of strange lights seen in the vicinity of Dulce at the time the mutilation supposedly took place.

       "As in numerous other mutilation cases, there was an 
       unofficial report from a Department of Game and Fish 
       officer of a large orange light in the darkness along a 
       ridge directly south of the meadow" (Thompson 1978a).

To determine the cause of death, the heart muscle and



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other parts of the bull were taken to Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories for analysis. According to an article that appeared in the May 18 issue of the Albuquerque Journal (1978a) the results of the test were inconclusive because of "possible contamination [of the sample] from outside sources." Although not reported until later (see Olson 1978d and Valerio 1979), the bull's liver together with a liver from a healthy animal were also analyzed in a laboratory. In contrast to the "healthy" liver, the bull's liver contained no copper. Instead, it was found to have an unusually high concentration of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous (Olson 1978d).

This case was later described in an article in UFO Report as were two other incidents that were investigated in Dulce that spring (Nelson 1978). In May, a cow belonging to the Jicarilla Apache Tribal Chief of Police was found dead; "its udder had been removed... and there appeared to be bruise marks around the body where several straps had been attached." The article goes on to say that about 100 yards north, the police investigator found "several pairs of perfectly round, deeply imprinted tracks" (Nelson 1978: 26).

A few weeks later, another rancher in the Dulce area reported finding his cow dead and sexually mutilated. According to Nelson, the investigating officer discovered unusual tracks and other evidence to suggest that the animal had been airdropped.

       "The round prints were fifty to seventy-five yards 
       away from the carcass in an area of



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       thick sagebrush. He [investigator] also remembers 
       that several branches had been broken off in the 
       treetops above the carcass as if the animal had been 
       brought down through the trees and dropped to the 
       ground. Flies buzzing around the broken tree branches 
       suggested that blood from the carcass had been 
       splattered on the tree tops" (Nelson 1978: 26-27).

On June 14, another mutilated cow was reported in the Dulce area by the same rancher whose bull had allegedly been mutilated in April. The Albuquerque Journal (1978b) describes the victim as a four-year-old Hereford cow. Its udder, rectum and part of the lower lip were reported missing; its legs fractured; and its vertebrae broken. Elsewhere it was claimed that one of its horns had broken off and was sticking in the ground.

The investigating officer told the Journal reporter that the victims are apparently airlifted to a place where they are mutilated, the carcass then being returned to the pasture that night. In the article the officer also discussed the possibility that such livestock are marked ahead of time in order to aid in their identification at night. To test this hypothesis, the lawman announced that he and a retired scientist from Albuquerque were planning to conduct an experiment (Albuquerque Journal 1978b).

This experiment was conducted in Dulce that summer. Its results, when they were released to the press in December, were front page news. The following description is based on an article, "New Findings Deepen Mystery of Mutilations", which was published December 15 in the Albuquerque Journal.



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on July 5, approximately 120 cattle belonging to a Dulce rancher were penned in a corral and headed through a squeeze chute under an ultra-violet light. Five animals were found "with a glittery substance on the right side of the neck, the right ear and the right leg." Samples from the affected hide as well as unaffected "control" samples were sent to a laboratory in Albuquerque, which reported that the affected hides contained a significant deposit of magnesium and potassium. Although there was little speculation as to what the substance might be, one of the experimenters noted that "mutilated cattle are generally found lying on their right sides -- the same side the live cattle were 'marked on' " (Thompson 1978b).

This article also reported the results of another test, which seemed to provide further evidence of a link between UFOs and livestock mutilations. According to the article, the Dulce law officer and his Albuquerque collaborator had recently learned that four nights before the July 5 experiment was conducted, a UFO was sighted near Taos. It was reported that three families living three miles northwest of Taos were startled at 12:05 a.m. by "a very bright orange light." The object appeared to be hovering over a fuel tank and a pickup truck, which was parked outside one of the homes. The next morning, "a thin powder was found on the roof of the pickup's cab," which one of the witnesses collected and put in a jar." When the experimentors" learned of this incident, they had a sample of the powder sent to the same laboratory that had run the cowhide tests.



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Preliminary analysis of this substance revealed that it contained significant amounts of potassium and magnesium, the same elements found on the hides of the cattle test four nights later Thompson 1978b).

In an article published two weeks later in the Rio Grande Sun, Gail Olson (1978D) makes a further observation that the chemical components found in the affected cowhides and the powder from the Taos "Flying machine" are the same as those found "in the 'white and mushy' liver of a cow which was mutilated near Dulce last April."

As 1978 drew to a close, cattle mutilations were very much in the headlines. Media coverage of the more spectacular New Mexico cases suggested a possible link between UFOs and livestock mutilations. The results of the experiment and related tests seemed to provide further evidence for such a connection. The possible implications of such a connection gave rise to further speculation by the press, particularly in the year that followed.

1979 Incidents

Shortly after the New Year began, a mutilation was reported in Taos. According to the Albuquerque Journal (1.979a) on January 12 a five-year-old cow was found dead about one quarter mile from where a UFO had been seen the year before. Its neck had been fractured.

A few weeks later, a more serious incident was



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reported in southern New Mexico. At Malaga near Carlsbad, a rancher found four of his horses dead. The Albuquerque Journal (1979b) stated that three of them had been mutilated. In an article appearing in the Rio Grande Sun, a law officer claimed that all four horses had been mutilated (Olson 1979a). These animals were described as "prize racehorses, each worth $10,000." The article also points out that the horses were "found near Carlsbad, the proposed site of the nation's first official nuclear dumping ground" (Olson 1979a).

The district attorney's decision to apply for a LEAA grant was based largely on the information contained in articles such as these and those cited earlier. Also, the police officer from Dulce, who had investigated many of the cases in Rio Arriba County, claimed the mutilations were caused by humans. As Olson (1979a) points out:

       "He [the officer] has determined to his satisfaction 
       that highly evolved aircraft are involved in the 
       mutilations and that whoever is responsible has 
       strong resources for backing."

The belief that such mutilations were a major law enforcement problem was also shared by Senator Harrison Schmitt, who at that time was trying to interest the FBI in conducting a special investigation.

Not everyone agreed with this position, however, for on November 9, 1978, the Rio Grande Sun published an article based on an interview with Dr. Jim Prine, a veterinarian affiliated with the Mammalian Biology Group at Los Alamos Scientific



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Scientific Laboratories. In this interview Dr. Prine attributes the mutilations to predators. These cattle, according to him, die primarily from blackleg, red water, and other natural causes. The article also devotes considerable space to interviews with two state officials, both of whom disagreed with Dr. Prine's findings. To discredit the predator theory, one official claimed he has seen fresh carcasses in which the incisions were "similar to laser cuts" (Olson 1978b). Dr. Prine was interviewed again in an article that appeared the following February in a number of area newspapers, including the Albuquerque Journal (1979c).

In support of Dr. Prine's theory, however, some of the mutilations discussed in the newspapers were actually described as rather "sloppy." In fact, the following case, which was reported November 28, 1978, in the New Mexican (1978) clearly seems to be the work of "canine mutilators." A cow belonging to a rancher from Hernandez was found dead and mutilated in a corral about 150 feet from the home. According to the investigating officer, its head was found wedged between two boards, where it had apparently choked to death. Its tail, rectum and sexual organs were missing, as though they had been "dug out." Although the officer claimed that the tail section had probably been eaten by dogs, the neighbor who had found the animal believed the missing parts had been "cut with a knife or a similar sharp object." As an experiment, the carcass was left in the open to see if dogs would feed on it. They did.



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A series of mutilations similar to this one were also reported in 1978 in the Rio Grande Sun. Gail Olson (1978a) states that on October 3, "three cows and a two-month-old calf were murdered and mutilated in northern Rio Arriba County." The rectums and sex organs of the three cows were reported missing. The reporter points out, however, that these mutilations had not been very precisely executed: "Though circular, the incisions were ragged and sloppy."

But articles advocating a predator/scavenger explanation were a drop in the bucket compared with the number claiming human causation. In fact, in the case just described, Olson goes so far as to suggest the mutilators were probably "amateurs" who had not yet completed their "mutilation apprenticeship" (Olson 1978a). Moreover, not all veterinarians accepted the predator/ scavenger explanations. On December 14, 1978, the Rio Grande Sun published an article based on an interview with Dr. William T. Fitzgerald, a Colorado veterinarian (Olson 1978c). In this article, Dr. Fitzgerald discusses the results of an examination he performed on a mutilated cow found near Durango. According to him, the cow, which displayed "classic mutilation symptoms," was bled to death using a 12 to 14 gauge needle inserted into the left jugular vein. He goes on to say that the murder and mutilation of this animal would have required "a capture gun, blowgun or special arrow, one or more sharp knives or scissors, and hypodermic needles." Dr. Fitzgerald was then asked to comment on LASL's findings "that area cows similarly found dead



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had died natural deaths, then were attacked by predators." According to Olson (1978c), "Dr. Fitzgerald remained unconvinced."

The grant proposal was submitted by the district attorney's office on February 1, 1979. The LEAA awarded the grant later that spring, the project to begin May 28. In the intervening months, livestock mutilations and associated phenomena continued to dominate the news.

On March 26, 1979, a cow was found dead and mutilated in Torrance County. The sheriff was assisted in his investigation by the law officer from Dulce. What made this case interesting was the alleged discovery of tripod marks inside the corral where the five-year-old cow was found dead and mutilated (New Mexican 1979). The Rio Grande Sun (1979) reported that the cowls tongue was burned and its neck broken, as though it had been killed elsewhere and "dragged." The article attributed the cause of death to exsanguination.

On April 8, 1979, "a mysterious aircraft thought to be involved in cattle mutilations," was sighted in the Dulce area (Albuquerque Tribune 1979a). The Albuquerque Journal (1979d) reports that two Jicarilla Apache tribal officers were on routine patrol, their vehicle lights off, when they spotted "the aircraft hovering about 50 feet off the ground with a powerful spotlight aimed at the cattle."

A police officer in Dulce subsequently witnessed the craft, which "he thinks had to be connected with a series of 16



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recent cattle mutilations in the Dulce area." Although the identity of the craft was not known, one reporter said he had learned from military sources that a relatively quiet, jet-powered helicopter had been developed earlier for use in Vietnam (Albuquerque Journal 1979d). Another reporter also speculated the craft might have been a type of helicopter currently being tested (Olson 1979b).

A connection between livestock mutilations and UFO sightings was also made by Candyce Valerio. In an article entitled "Cattle Mutilations in Northern New Mexico", which appeared in the March/April issue of Taos Magazine, Valerio (1979) rehashes the Taos UFO incident and the cowhide experiment previously described. According to her, the "retired scientist" who participated in that experiment has also been conducting extensive tests on the organs of both mutilated animals and healthy ones. The author claims that his tests have shown that the livers of mutilated cows disintegrate within six to eight hours as though the animal had been subjected to "a high level of radiation in the microwave region." Valerio (1979: 30-31) points out that both the scientist and the Dulce law officer with whom he has been working "are cautious when discussing why such mutilations occur, but note that since the lips, tongue, and rectal area are removed, the mutilations may be related to a scientific study of the lymphatic system and production of bacteria."

Why such mutilations occur was also one of the topics



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discussed at the livestock mutilation conference conducted April 20 in Albuquerque. Law officers and independent investigators from 11 states attended the meeting, which was hosted by Senator Harrison Schmitt and United States Attorney R. E. Thompson. The purpose of the day-long conference was to help define the scope of the problem and to examine "the possible FBI activities which will be of value in solving these crimes" (Schmitt 1979: 5).

The morning was devoted to a public hearing, which was attended by a variety of people, including government officials, UFO enthusiasts, veterinarians, independent investigators, and concerned citizens. Although a number of different views and opinions were offered, the theory that seemed to excite local reporters the most was one advocated by David Perkins, an amateur Colorado investigator using the name Animals Mutilations Probe. Perkins suggested that environmental testing might be the motive behind livestock mutilations. To support his theory, he displayed a map showing what he claimed was an association between mutilations and nuclear-related activities.

Perkins' presentation received considerable coverage in both the Albuquerque Journal (1979) and the Rio Grande Sun Olson (1979c). In support of his theory, Olson (1979c) pointed out that many of the New Mexico mutilations have occurred in Dulce, which is located near Gas Buggy, "the site of the nation's first underground nuclear explosion designed to stimulate the production of gas." In an earlier article, she explained that the explosion was set off in 1967 as an experiment by the



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El Paso Natural Gas Company and the United States Atomic Energy Commission (Olson 1978a).

The afternoon session of the conference, which was closed to the public, was attended by law enforcement officers from New Mexico, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, and Arkansas, as well as representatives from the FBI. Those who had conducted on-the-scene investigations discussed their particular cases. To support the claim that livestock mutilations were not the work of predators and scavengers, one New Mexico law officer said he had found a mutilated cow in the branches of a tree.

The general consensus of the session was that livestock mutilations were indeed a problem that warranted further investigation. It was decided that in New Mexico, the investigation should be conducted by one of three agencies -- the FBI, the New Mexico State Police, or the District Attorney's office in Santa Fe, which was still awaiting LEAA's decision on the proposed grant. Four days later the grant was awarded. Shortly after the announcement was released to the press, I was hired to direct the project.

In the meantime, livestock mutilations continued to dominate the news, for as one reporter astutely observed, "the cattle mutilation mystery [had] become a media event" (Thompson 1979c). Senator Schmitt's conference, of course, received considerable coverage in both local and out-of-state newspapers. Several weeks later, a television crew from ABC arrived in New Mexico to film a documentary on livestock mutilations. Towards



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the end of the month, Fritz Thompson (1979c) reviewed the New Mexico mutilation phenomenon in "The Cattle Mutilation Mystery Revisited", which appeared in the May 22 issue of Impact.

In addition, mutilation cases were still being reported in local newspapers. In fact, on May 2, one of the most startling discoveries of the year was announced -- the discovery of two drugs in the carcass of a mutilated bull. According to the Albuquerque Tribune (1979b), a Los Alamos chemist had just discovered traces of two drugs in the carcass of a six-month-old bull that had been found mutilated earlier that year in Torrance County. The two drugs were chlorpromazine, "a street drug, often used to tranquilize schizophrenics" and citric acid, "an old-fashioned anti-coagulant once used by ranchers to help drain the blood from the animal."

This discovery excited the two lawmen who had investigated the case. In an interview in the New Mexican (1579), one officer stated that the tranquilizer was probably used to immobilize the animal while the other drug was used "to clog the blood" so that it could be more easily removed through the jugular vein. He also said he is aware of only three other cases where drugs have been found in mutilated carcasses. All three incidents occurred in Arkansas, he claimed, and were reported "about the same time that this case was found." The other officer told the reporter there were "skid marks near the carcass, indicating it might have been dropped from the air."



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Summary and Conclusions

Operation Animal Mutilation officially began on May 28, 1979. On that date, I assumed the role of project director, well aware of the controversial nature of the subject I was about to investigate. During the past few years, as I have shown, scores of articles had been written about the New Mexico cases. These mutilations have been variously linked with UFOs, environmental testing, biological experiments, and nuclear activities. A few individuals, however, including some very knowledgeable veterinarians, have continually maintained that the real mutilators are predators and scavengers. This theory, I soon learned, was one of the least popular.