CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
During the past five years, hundreds of livestock mutilations have been reported throughout the United States. Of the states affected by this phenomenon, New Mexico has certainly had its share of unusual incidents.
Since 1975, over 100 mutilations have been reported throughout the state. Ninety mutilations were reported prior to Operation Animal Mutilation. Another 27 incidents were investigated under this year-long project, which began May 28, 1979. Twenty-five of these cases were reported as mutilations. In each of these 25 incidents, as I have shown in Chapter Four, the rough jagged nature of the incisions together with the evidence at the scene clearly indicates that the carcass was damaged by predators and/or scavengers. In most cases, the animal had died first of natural causes.
Shortly after the results of my investigation were released to the press, several individuals have stated that no classic mutilations had occurred during the course of my project as though this would explain my sincere, but obviously misguided verdict of scavenger-induced damage. I agree that no classic mutilations have occurred during Operation Animal Mutilation. However, I would like to know their basis for their statement. More specifically, I wish to address the following questions to them:
(1) How many of the mutilations that I investigated in this project did they also investigate?
(2) Specifically, which ones did they investigate?
(3) How do these mutilations differ from the "classic" cases with which they are comparing them?
Can these questions be answered, or is their observation just another one of those unsupported statements that I have encountered so frequently during the course of my project? I cannot answer this, but I can point out the results of my own analysis of the 90 mutilations reported prior to the commencement of Operation Animal Mutilation.
As I have noted in Chapter Three, a verdict of predator/scavenger-induced damage is clearly indicated in the vast majority of cases in which sufficient evidence is presented in the report. Even in those few cases in which the damage was determined to be human-induced, the resulting mutilation bore little resemblance to the "classic" case. In short, during my investigation of the 117 mutilations that have been reported in New Mexico since 1975, I have not found one single case which, after careful scrutiny of available evidence, could be confirmed as a "classic mutilation."
Are the conclusions that I have reached unique? To the contrary, the data obtained from qualified investigators and experienced veterinarians in other states only confirms what I have discovered in New Mexico. In fact, I have found no credible source who differs from this finding, nor has one piece of hard
evidence been presented or uncovered that would cause me to alter this conclusion. But perhaps it is better to let the experts speak for themselves. The following statements are excerpts from letters received from veterinarians affiliated with various state veterinary diagnostic laboratories. The complete contents of these communications can be found in the appendix section of this report.
Dr. Harry D. Anthony, Kansas State University:
"It is my opinion that most of these carcass
problems occur after the natural death of the
animal and predators or scavengers feed on
the remaining loose tissues of the carcass, such
as lips, eyelids, and the external genital organs."
Dr. S. M. Dennis, Kansas State University:
"Many animal mutilation reports are a result
of false or incomplete information being
furnished by the rancher to law enforcement
officers investigating the dead animals, and
many times by inexperienced and untrained
law enforcement officers putting down what
they see in a manner which tends to be very
dogmatic... it appears to be a quirk of human
nature for ranchers not to want to admit that
an animal of theirs died either by poisoning
or due to predation."
Dr. L. G. Morehouse, University of Missouri:
"It is the opinion of our pathologists that a
fair percentage of animals that come to
post-mortem have been eaten on by birds
and carnivorous (animals). This has been
observed for many years. It is also the
opinion of our pathologists that the
percentage of dead animals that have lost
parts to carnivorous (animals) has not
increased in recent years, although the
number of clients that believe their animals
have been mutilated by humans or some
other unexplained phenomenon have
Dr. William J. Quinn, State of Montana:
"In summary, I believe that the cattle
mutilations are due to flesh-eating birds and
small mammals and not by an unknown
person or group of persons."
L. D. Kintner, University of Missouri:
"Surprisingly as it may seem to the
uninitiated, many of the scavengers make
a clean cut as might be done by a surgeon
with a very sharp knife. In fact, many of
the animals that are presented to our
postmortem laboratory have loss of eyes,
tongue, anus, and rectum within only hours
Dr. Roger Panciera, Oklahoma State University:
(Commenting in a special task force report to the governor of Oklahoma in regards to cattle mutilations):
"All Investigations that have been completed
have indicated death due to natural causes and
death due to disease. In no case has the
observation and opinion of task force indicated
man has been a primary factor in death or
Dr. M. W. Vorhies, South Dakota State University:
"Obviously, we should not dismiss the
possibilities of human involvement, but it has
been our experience that in all instances, we
could identify evidence of predatory animals
being involved in missing parts of animals
dying of some natural causes.
Dr. William Sippel, Texas A & M University:
"In short, we have found no evidence of
mutilation by humans of the specimens
presented to our laboratory."
Dr. Robert L. Poulson, Utah Department of Agriculture:
"Livestock mutilations in Utah have been
minimal, with the exception of a few cases
that were reported which apparently resulted
from natural or disease conditions and later
mutilated by pranksters or predatory animals."
In short, as you can see from the foregoing excerpts, the conclusions of professionals from other states overwhelmingly corroborate my own findings. They all agree that the carcasses they have examined have been damaged -- by animals and birds rather than highly skilled surgeons. As I have noted previously, in order to eliminate a verdict of predator/scavenger damage, it must be shown that the incisions in the carcass have been made by a knife or other sharp instrument. As I have illustrated in Chapter Four, incisions made by scavengers can resemble knife cuts, especially when viewed at a distance. In those cases in which the cut appears to be smooth, microscopic analysis is necessary to determine whether or not that cut was made by a sharp instrument. In order for such a verdict to be reached, microscopic analysis must reveal that the hair follicles have been cut perpendicular to the plain. If this cannot be shown, then the damage cannot be attributed to humans.
Although "surgical precision" is the major criterion used to distinguish scavenger-induced damage from the "classic mutilations" the latter is also attributed with other characteristics that reportedly set it apart from carcasses damaged by birds and animals. The other attributes of the classic
mutilation, as I will illustrate below, can also be explained logically.
For example, one major characteristic is the removal of certain types of organs -- namely the sexual organs, tongue, eye, and ear. However, as I have pointed out previously, these are the same organs normally removed by scavengers. This point is well illustrated by an experiment conducted in Arkansas on September 4, 1979. Officials of the Washington County Sheriff's Department, which sponsored this experiment, monitored a calf, which had just died, for more than 30 hours.
"By the time they completed their vigil, the
animal's tongue was gone, its eye removed to
the bony orbit, anus 'cored', internal organs
(intestines, bladder, etc.) expelled, and little
blood was evident at the scene. Who were the
mutilators? Blowflies, skunks, and buzzards,
who were still feeding on the carcass when the
last photographs were taken September 6 at
11:00 a.m." (Owen 1980: 17).
This experiment also illustrates another point that I have made repeatedly in this report -- that the types of organs removed and the amount of damage done to the carcass depends on when the investigator arrives at the scene and which scavengers are present in the area.
Another claim made for the classic mutilation is that the animal is devoid of blood. Such a claim is rarely substantiated by a necropsy report. Rather, it seems to be based primarily on the apparent lack of blood at the scene. Such a lack, however, is easily explainable, particularly in view of the fact that most mutilations appear to be done after the
animal has died. As noted previously, the blood settles to the lower port of the cavity and coagulates, thus giving the appearance that the animal is devoid of blood. Any blood on the carcass or on the ground is quickly consumed by scavengers - such as the blowflies observed in the Arkansas experiment. To quote Dr. L. D. Kintner of the University of Missouri: "It is the rule rather than the exception for these animals to do a neat job and not leave either blood or mess at the site of the carcass."
Also, it seems likely that in a number of alleged mutilations, dried blood found on the carcass has been mistakenly identified as burn marks, which are occasionally reported in classic mutilation cases. Dr. M. W. Vorhies of South Dakota University makes the following observations regarding this problem.
"Often where the animal has died and the
predatory animals have removed parts, there
is dried blood on the hair; and this may
appear to some as if the skin or hair has been
burned because it will turn a very dark black
color when exposed to the air."
Dr. Clair M. Hibbs of New Mexico State University, when asked to comment about the "mysterious lack of blood at the scene," sums up the situation by saying that "these statements are made by unprofessionals who do not have any real knowledge of what happens after an animal dies."
A third characteristic attributed to the classic mutilations is the deliberate avoidance of the carcass by other
animals. Although many of the mutilations investigated before Operation Animal Mutilation began are considered "classic" -- at least by some of the more vocal investigators -- scavenger activity is cited in a large percentage of the official reports from this period.
It should also be pointed out that the deliberate avoidance of the carcass by other animals need not indicate anything mysterious or bizarre about that carcass, for scavengers will tend to avoid livestock which have died from certain types of diseases such as water belly (Ruolithiasis). Water belly, according to Tommy Thompson of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, occurs in a cow when the urinary tract gets blocked. The urine subsequently backs up into other portions of the body, eventually killing the animal. According to Thompson, an animal which has died from this condition has such a strong odor that oven scavengers won't go near the carcass.
Another characteristic closely related to this one is the discovery of dead flies on some of the "mutilation" victims. In fact, shortly after it was announced that I would direct this project, Bob Erickson, a rancher from Lindrith, informed me that of his horses had been mutilated. What struck him as so unusual about this incident was that his horse was covered with dead flies - - a fact which he considered very mysterious and in his mind, tended to authenticate the mutilation phenomenon. I later learned of a similar case which had been reported June 8, 1978 in Elsberry, Missouri. Briefly, an animal
was found mutilated. Its right ear, right eye, tongue, udder, and reproductive organs were missing, according to the police report. The report also claimed that the animal's blood had been removed and that UFOs had been seen in the area. But what interested me about this particular case was the discovery made by the investigating officer of dead flies, which were fused to some branches located near the carcass.
The flies, together with the branches on which they were fused, were submitted by personnel from a local television station to the Ralston Purina Laboratory in St. Louis, Missouri, for examination.
According to the police report (1978), "[they] found [it] to be a fungus which has never before been discovered or known to exist in the wild. It has only, up to this point, been produced in a laboratory."
To investigate this incident, I obtained some letters written by Dr. J. M. Tufts (deceased) of the Veterinary Service Department of the Ralston Purina Company, who had performed the analysis. These letters, which had been sent to the Center for UFO Studies and a local television station, subsequently dispelled much of the mystery surrounding this incident. The information contained in these letters is summarized in the following paragraphs.
The flies were identified as the common "black blowfly." It was determined that they were afflicted by a fungus belonging to the genus Entomophthora, which is described in
Steinhaus Insect Microbiology. This volume includes a picture of clumps of flies attached to a leaf in a manner similar to that observed in the Elsberry incident.
The flies affected with the fungus attach themselves to branches and leaves in a lifelike manner and often in considerable numbers. Such flies would normally be attracted in great numbers to a decaying carcass. The disease progresses very rapidly, within 48 to 72 hours, and may completely replace the flies' internal structures. The fungus is also characterized by an adhesive material, which will cause the fly to stick to whatever it lands on. In short, the fungus could spread very rapidly and kill many flies very quickly, especially when large numbers are attracted to an area limited to the size of a carcass. Dr. Tufts concluded that the death and peculiar fixation of the flies was due to a fungal disease to which they are normally subject not to a mysterious unknown organism.
A few other characteristics of the "classic mutilation" also deserve brief mention. One common claim, as noted previously, is that the night a mutilation occurs, the family dog is unusually quiet. I have no quarrel with this observation, for as I pointed out in a recent press conference, it's hard to bark when your mouth is full of fresh meat.
Another frequently made claim is that the carcass of a mutilated animal decays either very slowly or, in some cases, extremely rapidly. There is nothing unusual about such an observation, for the rate of decay of a carcass is dependent
upon a number of factors, such as the disease from which the animal died, the temperature, the weather conditions, and the types of scavengers present in the area. Depending on which factors are present, the carcass may appear to decay more rapidly or more slowly than normal.
Although not cited as a typically occurring trait, the discovery of drugs in the carcasses of some of the victims has frequently been cited as proof that these livestock are being killed and mutilated by a highly sophisticated organization. During the course of my investigation, I have found reports of only five incidents in which drugs were discovered in the carcasses of mutilated, animals -- three in Arkansas and two in New Mexico.
In three of these incidents, as I have noted previously, the substances found in the animals were drugs with known veterinary use. These include the chlorpromazine found in the mutilated steer in New Mexico; the succinylcholine in the horse in Arkansas, and the santonin in the yearling steer, also in Arkansas. As I have already explained, there is reason to believe that two of these drugs had been administered to the animals, possibly by their owners, At this time I know of no reason why the chlorpromazine was found in the steer, but I have determined, as noted in Chapter Three, that the animal was on medicated feed.
The other two drugs -- mescaline, which was found in a bull calf in Arkansas, and atropine, which was reportedly
found in a New Mexico animal -- are substances that occur naturally in plants found in the area. Since cattle are known to ingest practically anything, the discovery of such substances in the carcasses of dead livestock is certainly not remarkable.
I would like to remind you that the New Mexico case in which atropine was reportedly found has not been identified and that the only source to mention it is the same officer that made the statement that chlorpromazine was the first drug discovered in a New Mexican animal.
To account for the widespread occurrence of these so-called classic mutilations, many theories have been advocated. During the course of my 12-month investigation, I have encountered most of them. However, it didn't take me long to realize that in terms of publicity, the most popular theory in New Mexico was that these mutilations were being performed by a well-organized, highly sophisticated group who were dissecting livestock as part of a program of biological and environmental testing. The identification of this group has received less publicity, although government involvement has certainly been hinted at by a number of investigators, both amateur and professional.
Despite its popularity, I have not found one shred of hard evidence to substantiate this theory. As I have pointed out in Chapter Three, one would expect that if an organized group such as the government were somehow involved in such a conspiracy, that there would be at least some information leaks
-- or perhaps at least one defector who would try to claim the reward money. For thousands of dollars have been offered by various state agencies for information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons responsible for mutilating livestock. To date, I know of not one single case where this money has been claimed. But then again, what use would eagles, crows, and coyotes have for money, when their food is laying in the pasture -- free for the taking.
It also didn't take me long to learn that of all the theories that have been advocated to account for livestock mutilations, the predator/scavenger theory was the least popular. Although it was not within the scope of my project to determine the reason for this, the following observations made in a recent article published in the Portales News Tribune (1979) aptly express my own thinking on the subject:
"Well, in our opinion, the reason that the
simple explanation of these cattle first died
of natural causes and almost immediately
attracted coyotes, vultures or ravens, lacks
credibility to the public is that they haven't
been given the evidence which livestock
inspectors, veterinarians and experienced
cattlemen are ready and willing to provide.
"These knowledgeable people have become
shy of answering questions from newsmen
because of the Popular beliefs that have been
reinforced by speculation of eerie or devilish
theories by powerful public news media.
"It's probably simply a case of the newsmen not
letting the facts get in the way of a good story."
Explanations for the Phenomenon
If there is no concrete evidence to support the claims that thousands of livestock have fallen victims to "classic
mutilations," then how does one explain the livestock mutilation phenomenon. Again, although the answer to this question falls outside the framework of this project, I would like to briefly review some of the explanations offered by others interested in this phenomenon.
A possible explanation for at least some of the interest in livestock mutilations is offered by Tom Adams (1979-80) in the January issue of' Stigmata, a newsletter devoted to the continuing investigation of livestock mutilations.
"Among items that are rumored to be in the
works, however tentatively: an anthology of
commentary on the mutilation phenomenon;
a bibliography of published materials; a fund
for research and investigation; an in-depth
documentary by a Colorado TV station, a
program which may or may not be circulated
to other TV stations around the country.
----- We wish we had a dollars (no, make that
an ounce of gold) for every writer we've
heard of within the past few years who
promised (or threatened) to turn out a serious
book on mutilations."
Although the profit motive cannot be entirely discounted, the livestock mutilation phenomenon is much too complex to be explained solely on this basis. Another possible explanation is offered by Burton Wolfe (1976) in an article entitled "Demystifying all the Satanic Conspiracy Stories on the Cattle Mutilations", which appeared in the May 14, 1976 issue of the San Francisco Guardian.
Wolfe attributes the cattle mutilation phenomenon to a hoax originally perpetrated by an astrologer named Dan Fry, host of a radio program in Minnesota called the "Cosmic Age."
According to Wolfe, about two years ago Fry announced on his program that cattle were being mutilated "either by some weird satanic cult or supernatural creatures arriving on the range in UFOs."
Fry, apparently intending his comments as a joke, was alarmed at the impact they subsequently had on ranches and farmers.
"Suddenly, farmers in Minnesota accustomed
to finding dead cows with parts severed by
predators began attributing the scavenging
to satanists and UFO creatures. Through the
mass communication media, including the
Associated Press and such esteemed
newspapers as the Houston Post, the story was
disseminated to millions of people in hundreds
of Midwestern cities. Reporters began to vie
with each other for the most sensationalized
version of how mysterious creatures from
UFOs or stealthy night figures from satanic
cults were mutilating cattle."
Alarmed by the results, the astrologer appeared on a number of radio and television shows "in an effort to abort his prank before the press created still more mass hysteria with it."
"'Man, there weren't any cattle mutilations.'
Fry explained in a typical appearance on a
Texas television talk show in March 1975. 'I
just started these rumors as a joke'" (Wolfe
Whether or not you accept Wolfe's explanation for the origin of the mutilation phenomenon, his observations about the role played by the media are quite revealing. Similarly, my own investigation has clearly shown that the media has played a very important role in promoting both the livestock phenomenon and the lore surrounding it.
The Truchas incident, as discussed in Chapter Four, is
a classic example of how a newspaper not only can distort the facts, but also can deliberately choose to ignore them in the face of a more sensational story. This incident, as I have noted previously, would undoubtedly have gone down in history as another "classic mutilation," if I had not investigated the case myself. My own investigation, as I have shown, clearly indicated the animal had died of natural causes and had subsequently been eaten by dogs and other scavengers. Although the reporter was later made aware of the many inaccuracies contained in her articles, she never printed a retraction.
A similar incident also occurred in Roswell. However, in this case the reporter did print a retraction. On October 29, 1979, the Roswell Daily Record (1979a) printed an article entitled "Mutilated Cow Found". This story, which describes a cow reportedly found dead and mutilated in Carrizozo, contains the following quotes, both of which were erroneously attributed to me:
"'It is definitely classified as a mutilation,
but it does not hold true to form as a
mutilation as are on our records,' said Kenneth
Rommel, director of the New Mexico animal
mutilation project. 'The difference is that the
eyes and tongue were left intact on the animal,'
I have no idea where this quote came from, for I certainly did not make it. On November 9, 1979, I sent a letter to the Roswell Daily Record informing them of this inaccuracy.
"This quotation is in error. I have not made any
statements since the beginning of this project
that would authenticate in any way any
reported cattle mutilations. My policy in
regards to this investigation has been to not
give out any incorrect, or misleading
information. I would appreciate it if you
would make a correction in your newspaper."
The Roswell Daily Record (1979b) did publish a correction on November 11 issue in an article entitled, "It Wasn't a Mutilation".
The role played by the media in both sensationalizing and promoting the livestock mutilation phenomenon has also been noted by Dr. Nancy H. Owen (1980) in her study of mutilations in Benton County, Arkansas. Similarly, Dr. J. M. Tufts, whose role in unraveling the Elsberry, Missouri fly mystery which was just discussed, makes the following observation:
"After all was said and done, it was obvious
that Channel 2 News was more interested in
creating an exciting story than in shedding any
light on the occurrence of a few dead cows."
One of the most extensive studies done on the relationship between the media and livestock mutilations was conducted recently by Dr. James R. Stewart, associate professor of sociology at the University of South Dakota. In an article entitled "Collective Delusion: A Comparison of Believers and Skeptics", Dr. Stewart (1980) traces the history of livestock mutilation reports in two adjacent states -- Nebraska and South Dakota. He goes on to show that there is a positive correlation between the number of reported incidents in a prescribed area and the number of news inches devoted to livestock mutilations by the media.
Another interesting point made by Stewart is the role played by law enforcement personnel in promoting the phenomenon.
"Local law enforcement personnel have
little, if any, experience in determining
causes of cattle deaths. Consequently, they
were inclined to adopt the farmer's
explanations in the absence of any solid
refuting evidence of their own. The same
was true of some local veterinarians. Rarely
do they examine dead cattle; instead they
are usually asked to treat living animals"
(Stewart 1980: 5).
Stewart also presents convincing evidence to support his conclusion -- that the episodes just discussed represent a classic case of mild hysteria (also see Stewart 1977). However, as Stewart points out, not everyone in these two states believed in livestock mutilations, even in the height of the "hysteria." Curious as to the types of individuals likely to be "believers," Stewart and his students interviewed approximately 800 adults. His findings are summarized in the following quotes:
"Females, persons with lower educational
levels and lower socioeconomic groups
seem to be more prone to subscribe to a
bizarre explanation, -while males, higher
educational level groups and high
socioeconomic groups seem to be more
reluctant to adopt the unusual explanation
and are more likely to attribute cause to a
natural explanation" (1980: 18).
One major objective of this project was to make recommendations to the law enforcement community. Since my investigation revealed that the vast majority of reported mutilations are not a law enforcement problem, my first recommendation is that no additional money be spent to fund law enforcement
investigations of this phenomenon. It should be noted, however, that this conclusion does not apply to other types of investigations, for I believe that useful and revealing studies can be done by anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, and other behavioral scientists.
Although I believe that most reported mutilations are caused by predators and scavengers, this does not mean that you, as a law enforcement officer, might not be summoned to investigate a suspected mutilation. In the event that this occurs, you should conduct an investigation that is sufficient to determine if the facts, as alleged, are in violation of a particular state statute, such as unlawful killing, unlawful butchering, or stealing of animals.
If so, you should conduct a logical investigation to collect evidence and testimony to support a successful prosecution of the individuals involved.
If not, you should investigate the incident no further. For example, you would not conduct a homicide investigation after it had been established that the individual had died a natural death or had committed suicide. The same reasoning should be used in investigating livestock mutilations.
Don't use terms such as "surgical precision," which are conclusions. Stay with the facts, let the laboratory experts make conclusions. Also, don't be mislead by statements made by non-authoritative sources, for as Adolf Hitler once said: "Tell a lie enough times and it will be believed" (KAFE, April 23, 1980).
While I would hesitate to classify these colorful reports as deliberate lies, nevertheless the principle remains the same. Constant repetition of even some of the most sensational conjectures may eventually be accepted as truth. Perhaps Dr. Samuel Johnson expressed it best when he said:
"It is more from carelessness about truth
than from intentional lying, that there is
so much falsehood in the world."
It is my sincere hope that the conclusions reached in this report will help those engaged in the cattle industry and others to put behind them the rumors, theories and fears that some highly organized criminal activity or extraterrestrial conspiracy is responsible for these mutilations. If this year-long investigation has achieved this one result, then all of the time, effort, and research will have proved most worthwhile.
However, I tend to agree with the following observation made by Dr. Stewart in a letter which he sent to me dated May 13, 1980:
"The efforts of knowledgeable experts
hopefully will provide a rational explanation
for this bizarre episode. Unfortunately, the
histories of similar events show that
reasonable, scientific explanations may
deflect or deter, but never completely
eliminate the fantastic explanations that
gullible, naive persons adopt."