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During the course of my year-long investigation, 27 mutilations were reported in different parts of the state. Almost all of these incidents were investigated within the framework of Operation Animal Mutilation. Twelve cases were handled primarily by officials from the New Mexico State Police, the New Mexico Livestock Board, the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, the United States Forest Service, and county sheriff's departments, who communicated their findings to me.
I personally conducted on-the-scene investigations of the remaining 15 incidents. For each of these incidents, my first objective was to determine the probable cause of the mutilation. Since the major difference between animal and human-induced mutilations is that the latter entails the surgical removal of bodily parts, it was necessary that this criterion be met before a verdict of human-causation could be established. If such a verdict was reached, my next objective would have been to determine the cause of the animal's death.
However, if close examination of the lesions revealed jagged edges, torn tissues, or tooth marks, I would be forced to conclude that the damage had undoubtedly been inflicted by animals and birds. If such a conclusion was reached, as was the case in all 15 of my investigations, then I saw no reason to determine the cause of death.
Perhaps an analogy will help clarify my reasoning on this matter. During my career as an FBI agent, I investigated many major crimes, including bank robberies. On such occasions, good investigative procedures normally entailed a complete processing of the bank for evidence, including the dusting and lifting of finger and palm prints. However, if upon arrival at the bank, I discovered that no robbery had occurred but that the bank alarm had been activated by mistake, further investigation would have been unnecessary and wasteful. A similar case can be made for suspected mutilations. If it can be shown that no "mutilation" (human-induced) has occurred, then it would be unnecessary as well as wasteful to try to determine the cause of death.
At the outset of this investigation, I had no preconceived opinions on how it was going to turn out, and anticipating some very challenging crime problems, I sought assistance from the experts in specific fields. I immediately received the assurance of full cooperation from Don Hannah, director of the New Mexico State Police Crime Laboratory. I knew from past experience that he had a group of highly qualified experts in many fields, along with the mobility necessary for this investigation.
I also was assured complete support from Dr. James Weston, chief medical investigator for the state, who agreed, if requested, to fly an investigative team of medical investigators to any scene and conduct a regular homicide-type investigation for this project. Dr. Clair Hibbs, director of the newly formed State Veterinary Diagnostic Service, also stated that when available, he would be willing to join this team of medical investigators and lend his expertise in the field. I likewise received offers of support from many experts connected with the University of New Mexico, who were willing to travel to the scene to contribute their services if needed.
However, I assured all these professionals that since I fully recognized the value of their time, and was well aware of their demanding schedules, I would at no time waste their talents or their time to merely put on a facade. On the contrary, I advised them I would first make every effort to visit a scene, and then call upon their expertise only when needed. I explained that this had been my working relationship with the experts associated with the FBI Laboratory for the past 28 years, and could see no reason to alter the policy.
As will be revealed by my comments and photographs concerning the following incidents that I investigated, at no time did I feel the need to request on-the-scene participation from these experts. I did, however, consult with many of them and sought their advice and guidance during the course of this project. I hereby acknowledge a full measure of gratitude for their splendid cooperation.
In the pages that follow, the 15 incidents I personally investigated are described first. During these investigations, I took over 250 sharply-defined slides, using an Olympus OM-10 camera. These slides are now maintained in my files. Some of the more pertinent ones have been reproduced into black and white photographs, and are included in this report to provide visual evidence of particular points. The chapter concludes with a description of the 13 incidents investigated for this project by other agencies.
As a result of information furnished by the New Mexico State Police, I investigated a reported mutilation in the Carson National Forest near the Coyote Ranger Station. I was accompanied by Bruce Higgins, a forester with the National Forest Service.
The animal -- a mature, white-faced heifer -- was found lying on its right side. I observed that the entire rear end as well as the underside of the body was missing. The left ear and left top portion of the lip had likewise vanished. However, the right ear, which was on the protected or underside of the animal, was still intact and bore a Forest Service Tag No. 605.
A normal distinctive dead odor prevailed and numerous flies were noted. No signs of a struggle were indicated, and the legs of the animal appeared to be intact. Other cow and deer tracks were noted in the immediate vicinity of the carcass.
Figures No. 1 and No. 2 show the animal when it was first found and reported as a mutilation. That the damage revealed in these photographs could be described as "surgical precision" is the epitome of suggestive thinking. However, last year I attended a conference in which a slide depicting similar damage was shown by an official as evidence of the unparalleled surgical skill with which these mutilations are performed.
Figure No. 3 shows that it is the exposed parts of the animal -- in this case the left ear, left eye, and upper lip that are missing. Forest Service tag no. 605 can readily be seen affixed to the right or protected ear, which remains intact.
In conclusion it is quite obvious that the carcass had been damaged by scavengers, which had attacked the most accessible parts of the animal. As the photographs indicate, the cuts were quite jagged. This verdict is further supported by the discovery of bird defecation on both the carcass and on a nearby log. When we arrived at the scene, a buzzard was spotted on the branch of a tree immediately above the dead animal, and buzzard feathers were found in the area. In addition, small pieces of white hair, which appeared identical to the hair on the carcass, were plainly visible in the buzzard defecation on the nearby log.
On June 29 I was horseback riding in the T-Bone Ranch area of the Carson National Forest. Accompanying me were Forest Supervisor Jack Crellin, Dr. Howard Smith of Roswell, and several other people, including some forest employees.
During the ride we discovered six dead cows, all of which had recently died from larkspur poisoning. We noted that larkspur was abundant in the area. In fact, it had plagued a good portion of northern New Mexico that spring because of an unusually heavy rainfall. We observed that the carcasses were covered with bird defecation. In addition, coyotes were seen in the area as we rode through.
Photographs of one carcass were taken at this time by Dr. Smith. Then at my request, Forester Bill Wright returned to this same isolated spot three days later (July 2) and rephotographed the same carcass. Some very interesting observations can be made from the following four photographs:
Figure No. 4 is a photograph taken June 29. It clearly shows that the animal died with its tongue protruding and ears intact. The protruding tongue is important, for during this investigation I have encountered statements, attributed to certain unidentified veterinarians, that no animal could open the mouth of a carcass to remove the tongue. But as this photograph shows, the explanation is really quite simple, since it is not unusual for an animal to die with its tongue protruding, especially if it has been poisoned. This photograph also shows a circular spot to the left of the mouth, which appeared to be blood and other body fluids that had drained from the mouth.
Figure No. 5 taken July 2 shows the same animal, but as you can see, both the tongue and right ear are missing. Also note that the spot is no longer visible a fact that could give rise to the statement that no blood is found at the scene of a mutilation. It is my observation that the amount of visible evidence present and the amount of damage done greatly depend upon how much time has elapsed before the carcass is discovered, and which animals have had access to it.
Figure No. 6 taken June 29 of the same animal shows the anus area beginning to puff out as the result of the formation of gasses inside the carcass and the relaxation of muscles as a result of death. This area as you can see, is now a readily accessible target for scavengers.
Figure No. 7 taken July 2 of the same animal reveals a circle beginning to form at the anus area. This portion of the animal is now being decimated by nothing more than the common blowfly. However, this effect is readily shaping up to what could have later been described as a "cored rectum."
In conclusion, this case was especially interesting and important since it resulted in a series of photographs that provide a "before and after" comparison -- a visual proof of scavenger-induced damage. This is another example, not of some bizarre intrigue, but of nature's ecologists performing their daily tasks on animals who had obviously died from larkspur poisoning. As the supervisor of the Carson National Forest points out, anytime northern New Mexico has a spring characterized by an unusual large amount of rain, there will be a potential larkspur problem in that part of the state.
Larkspur, however, is just one of more than one hundred plant species in New Mexico that are poisonous to livestock. Information on these potentially dangerous plants is provided in a pamphlet published by the Cooperative Extension Service of New Mexico State University, from which the following excerpt is taken.
"Most poisonous plants on New Mexico ranges are native. Usually, livestock graze them only when more desirable species are scarce or when watering facilities are not adequate. A lack of minerals such as salt or phosphorus may cause animals to graze plants they would not usually eat. Some poisonous plants such as lupines, locos, and larkspur 'green up' early, and animals craving green feed may graze these poisonous plants to satisfy their need. A few poisonous species, like these, are relatively palatable" (Gay and Dwyer 1967: 1).
The New Mexico State Police informed me that they had received a report of a livestock mutilation on July 3 in the Lindrith area. I learned that at approximately 10:45 a.m. on that date, a seven-year-old heifer weighing approximately 850 pounds, had been found dead by its owner.
The owner subsequently contacted the local livestock inspector and reported the incident as a mutilation. The owner stated he was not certain when the heifer died. However, he noted that about two days before the carcass was discovered, he had been through that area and had not seen the animal.
I conducted an on-the-scene investigation of this incident. The carcass was lying on its back with its head facing north -- the same position in which the animal had been discovered. Damage had been done to both the udder area and the anus region, which contained a hole approximately four inches in diameter. The eyes, lips, and tongue, however, were intact.
There was abundant evidence of scavenger activity. Not only was bird defecation evident on the carcass, but also the owner told me that when he first found the animal, he noticed ravens nearby. He immediately left the area to inform his wife of the animal's death. When he returned to the carcass, he saw a coyote, which he shot and killed.
A livestock inspector also arrived at the scene and concluded that the damage to the carcass was totally consistent with scavenger activity. However, he did comment that he had never seen a cow die lying flat on its back. Although that position may not be common, it should be noted that there are no set rules or findings concerning the position in which an animal must die. Moreover, veterinarians have advised me that when an animal begins to bloat after its death, the carcass has a tendency to turn toward the back. Cattle dying from anthrax also have a tendency to die with their feet straight in the air, according to Dr. Robert Pyles, veterinarian for the New Mexico Livestock Board. Dr. Pyles did point out, though, that anthrax had not recently been observed in New Mexico. A few weeks later, however -- on July 27 to be exact -- an anthrax epidemic was reported in Union and Colfax Counties.
Figure No. 8 shows the position in which the animal was found. Bird defecation is apparent on the carcass.
Moreover, one can see by the way the entrails are hanging out of the open body cavity that scavengers are a much more likely culprit than "highly skilled surgeons." The stain on the ground near the rear of the carcass has been made by fluids draining out of the body.
Figure No. 9, which was taken after the carcass was rolled over, clearly shows the entrails hanging out of the body cavity as well as the rough and torn damage sustained in the anus region. Again, the body fluids from the carcass are very noticeable. lead this carcass been discovered several days later, the stained area would either have evaporated or been licked clean by scavengers, as was the case in the Coyote incident. It is easy to understand why carcasses found in such a condition are often reported as being "devoid of blood."
In conclusion, the facts presented in the preceding discussion all lead to one verdict -- that the carcass was mutilated by scavengers. Not only were birds and coyotes at the scene, but the damage done to the carcass was obviously rough. As in keeping with the objectives set out earlier, I have not tried to determine the cause of the animals death. However, I think the possibility of a lightning kill, which is quite prevalent among livestock, should be considered in this incident.
On July 9, a rancher appeared at the district attorney's office in Espanola and reported that on July 8 he had found one of his cows dead and mutilated in the Tierra Amarilla area. The owner claimed that the animal's uterus, bladder, tongue, and eyes had been "surgically removed," and that he wanted the incident investigated.
I then went to Tierra Amarilla with the owner, who informed me that he had been in the ranching business his entire life. He also told me that this was the second animal he had lost to a mutilation.
When we arrived at the scene, the cow was lying on its left side approximately 2/10 of a mile from Highway 64 and 30 yards from a stream. Its head was facing in a northwest direction. The tongue and right eye were missing, and considerable damage had been done to the udder and anus areas. The extreme end of the animal's tail was missing. However, approximately 15 yards from the carcass, I discovered some hair which appeared to be identical to the remaining hair on the animal's tail.
There were numerous flies and maggots on the body, which also had the normal odor of decay. When the carcass was rolled over, the right eye was still intact, but was in the process of being eaten by maggots. I also observed several different birds of prey in the area.
After examining the carcass and noting the jagged and torn appearance of the injuries, I asked the owner whether he really thought the damaged areas could be described by the term "surgical precision." He replied that the damage did appear "a bit rough." I then asked where he obtained the term "surgical precision," and he said it was commonly used in the newspapers.
It is of interest that during our discussion, the owner immediately eliminated the possibility that the carcass had been damaged by coyotes. He based this belief on the fact that in his experience as a rancher he had observed that coyotes go to the throat to make a kill. As a result of extensive reading about sheep kills in Montana, I knew that he was right regarding coyote predation on sheep.
I then asked him how long he had been raising cattle. He replied, "about five years." He said that prior to this, his entire experience had been in the sheep raising business. We then discussed the possibility of a coyote acting in a dual role -- as a predator when killing smaller animals such as sheep, and as a scavenger when feeding upon the carcasses of larger animals such as cattle.
Figure No. 10 reveals the rough and jagged damage in the vicinity of the udder. it also shows a sizeable amount of bird defecation in this area.
Figure No. 11 discloses streaks of bird defecation on the carcass, and also illustrates the rough and torn jagged damage in the anus area.
Figure No. 12 shows a small dog which accompanied me on this investigation. He is obviously unconcerned -- a fact which is not consistent with the belief that animals always circle at a safe distance from a mutilated carcass.
In conclusion, after sifting through the evidence, I found nothing unusual in this particular case to set it apart from the previous investigations. The rough damage to the carcass, including the typically missing eye and tongue,, again point to coyotes, birds, and maggots as the "mutilators." However, it is readily understood why the owner's initial reaction involved those words "surgical precision.'' The power of the printed word -- especially when repeated over and over -- cannot help but influence one's thoughts. Although the cause of death was not determined, the owner informed me that the cow was due to have its first calf in August -- a very critical time for any bovine.
This investigation was originally initiated by Captain Robert Carroll of the New Mexico State Police (Criminal Investigation Division) after receiving the following information. On August 16 at approximately 2:30 p.m., several young men were riding motorcycles near Pueblito Cemetery, northeast of Questa, when they discovered the carcass of a steer which they believed had been mutilated. The animal was later described as a whitefaced Hereford, approximately six months old and weighing between 350-400 pounds.
The initial on-the-scene investigation was conducted by Captain Carroll, who was accompanied by Arthur Craig of the New Mexico State Police Crime Laboratory. Don Gibbs, a New Mexico Livestock Board inspector, was also on the scene. The hide and hair under both the neck and lower jaw were reported missing as was a patch of hide, approximately 14 inches long, between the rear legs. The udder area had also been damaged. There was bird defecation on the carcass and canine tracks were seen in the immediate vicinity. Further inspection revealed teeth marks inside the muscle tissue as well as on the hide. The police took photographs, two of which are reproduced here.
Tire tracks were also observed at the scene. Based on a reconstruction of events, Captain Carroll and Inspector Gibbs concluded that a vehicle had driven into this isolated place and deposited the animal there. With this possibility in mind, the carcass was thoroughly examined again and what appeared to be green paint was found on the hide. Acting on this information, Inspector Gibbs instituted a search for the owner of the animal, who was located on August 28.
Inspector Gibbs interviewed the owner, who stated that around August 14, he was up on his forest allotment. While there he found his calf, which appeared to be very ill. The animal was running a high fever and its tongue was badly swollen. The owner said he then brought the calf down to his ranch in Questa, where it died the following day. Thinking the calf might have contracted a contagious disease that could infect the rest of the herd, the owner hauled the carcass to an isolated area and deposited it there.
Following the initial investigation by the police and livestock inspector, I conducted my own investigation, The next day I arrived on the scene but was hampered by rain. Two weeks later I returned and took some photographs, two of which are reproduced here.
Figure No. 22 shows the very jagged edges of the damaged udder area.
Figure No. 23 reveals the damage to the jaw bone area.
Figures No. 24 and No. 25 were taken approximately two weeks later, disclosing all that remains of the carcass -- the head and a piece of hide.
In conclusion, based on an interview with the owner, it is quite obvious that the calf had died of natural causes. The evidence at the scene clearly indicates that the mutilation was caused by canines, either dogs or coyotes, who were further assisted by birds. It should be noted that the damage done to this carcass, particularly in the udder area and jaw bone, is very similar to what is so often reported in the so-called classic mutilation." Also, as in many "classic mutilations," pieces of hide were missing from the animal.
During the course of the investigation, a deputy sheriff arrived at the scene and immediately declared to all present that this was a "classic mutilation." He then said he had viewed other "classic mutilations" in Colorado and thus knew this was definitely one of them. Naturally this raises some doubts as to the soundness of previous observations he has made in that state. In fact, how many other similar and questionable verdicts have been made throughout the cattle raising states by those who believe they are witnessing, or are experts concerning "classic mutilations?"
On September 13 at 12:30 a.m. the state police informed me that a cattle mutilation had been reported in the Truchas area. I telephoned the owner, who told me the animal had been found dead and mutilated at 9:30 p.m. the previous evening.
I immediately traveled to the scene and discovered a female bovine, between three and four years old, lying on its right side. The anus area was missing and there was a hole in the udder where a nipple had been removed. In addition, part of the tongue was gone, both eyes had been partially removed, and a three-inch patch of skin was missing from the belly area. A large quantity of blood had settled in the carcass. I also found bird defecation on the body.
Because it was still dark, I decided to resume the investigation later that morning. This time I was accompanied by Henry Guillen, New Mexico Livestock Board inspector; Cipriano Padilla, district attorney investigator; the owner of the animal and his son. Upon arrival at the scene, we observed six turkey vultures on the carcass. They immediately took flight. In addition to this dramatic evidence of scavenger activity, canine defecation was also found near the body.
Since the carcass obviously contained a considerable amount of gas, Inspector Guillen asked the owner if the cow had been vaccinated against blackleg -- a type of clostridial infection that produces an acute, febrile disease in cattle. The owner replied that none of his cows had been vaccinated against blackleg, and that this was the second cow he had lost this summer. Inspector Guillen then advised the owner to have his stock vaccinated since other cows in the area had recently died from the disease.
Several days after my investigation, the owner contacted me and reported that on September 14 he had found another cow dead. He said he immediately took the carcass to a veterinarian in Espanola, who diagnosed the cause of death as blackleg. The owner also informed me he had immediately instituted a vaccination program for the rest of his herd.
Figure No. 26 shows bird defecation near the left eye, which is missing.
Figure No. 27 shows the damage inflicted on the rear end of the carcass as viewed from a distance of approximately six feet.
Figure No. 28 shows a close-up of the same damage.
Note the extreme jaggedness of the cut in the 12 o'clock position. This picture illustrates how difficult it is to accurately assess the nature of a mutilation on the basis of a distant photograph.
Figure No. 29 shows the udder area, from which a nipple has obviously been removed.
In conclusion, the damage inflicted on this carcass is similar to that found on other carcasses-- with one exception. We arrived on the scene before the entire udder was taken. As noted previously, the entire investigative team observed six vultures working on the carcass, and the resulting damage has been graphically revealed in the photographs. I have additional slides on file which show the carcass with its ear and tongue partially removed. Once again I wish to stress the point that the amount of damage done to a carcass depends on what time the investigator arrives at the scene and which scavengers are in the area.
This investigation was initiated following a telephone conversation September 17 with a rancher whose bull had been found dead three days earlier on his property at El Cerrito. The owner said he thought the animal had been mutilated.
He said he found the animal lying on its right side, approximately 25 yards from the road and 150 yards from his house. According to the owner, the animal was last seen alive on September 12. He then described the damage to the carcass, which consisted of a hole in the anus, approximately three inches in diameter; a partial loss of the tongue; and the removal of the penis and testicles.
I conducted an on-the-scene investigation September 17, accompanied by the owner. When I approached the area, crows were visiting the carcass. There was bird defecation on the animal as well as numerous flies, and the carcass had an extremely foul odor.
I observed blood stains on the mouth of the animal and on the ground below. The damage to the carcass was exactly as the owner had described it. However, as in past examinations, the damage was noticeably jagged to the naked eye and even more so when viewed through a magnifying glass.
Other than bird defecation, there was no obvious evidence to indicate the presence of other scavengers. But the owner said there had been a lot of rain when the carcass was found, which he felt would have obliterated any animal tracks.
He further stated that when he first found the body it had possessed a very strong sulphur smell similar to the odor of a rotten egg or the smell produced immediately after a match is struck. However, when I examined the carcass, this odor was no longer present.
The owner also told me that the day following his discovery of the carcass, it was examined by Frank Gallegos, a New Mexico Livestock Board inspector assigned to the Las Vegas area. On September 19, I interviewed Gallegos, who told me that he had examined the bull on September 15. He said by this time the bull had already been dead for several days, He examined the animal for gunshot wounds but could not find evidence to suggest it had been shot. However, the tongue was partially gone and flies were working on the anus, In addition, the penis and scrotum were already missing. He also pointed out that the carcass had a decisive rotten odor which he said was the normal odor for dead cattle.
Curious about the origin of the sulphur smell, I contacted several of the veterinarians who have been serving as consultants on this project. They were unable to come up with a logical solution. On May 6, 1980, I contacted Dr. J. Sherrod, D.V.M., Valverde Animal Clinic, Cortales. He explained that this odor is very common when a bovine dies lying on its right side. The rumen then has a tendency to vent to the outside and -- depending on what the animal has been eating -- a definite sulphur odor may be noticeable. Dr. Sherrod noted that some of the grazing plants in New Mexico typically produce such a reaction. He also pointed out that this condition is unlikely to occur if the animal dies lying on its left side.
Figure No. 30 shows the area of the penis, and again the jaggedness is very noticeable.
Figure No. 31 shows the anus area and likewise reveals the jaggedness of the damage.
In conclusion, there is no evidence here, whatever, to link this mutilation to "strange and mysterious circumstances." The damage to the carcass was probably inflicted by the crows which were prevalent at the scene. Birds appear to be among the first arrivals to feast upon a dead animal, and seem possessed with ravenous appetite that can soon wreak a surprising amount of damage to a carcass.
This particular case also shows that there is usually a logical, common sense solution to even the most puzzling aspects of a mutilation case. While a more imaginative, headline-seeking investigator might have sought to link that strong sulphur odor to some mysterious or occult happening, the answer turned out to be a very natural and logical one.
On September 15, the state police in Socorro advised me t hat a cattle mutilation had just been reported in the Tome area. I conducted an on-the-scene investigation that day. Tom Brinkley, an inspector for the New Mexico Livestock Board, was also present. The victim -- a Holstein heifer, 15-16 months old -- was lying on its left side in a pasture approximately 200 yards east of Highway 47. It was facing south. The heifer was last seen alive September 14 at 10 a.m.
The damage to the carcass consisted of a very jagged hole,. approximately eight inches in diameter, in the anus area. on the right side of the udder was a small puncture hole, and the right eye was missing. The end of the tongue had been removed,, leaving very rough, jagged edges.
The pasture was extremely muddy and contained numerous cow tracks, which was understandable since there were approximately 25 head of cattle in the pasture where the carcass lay. In addition, there was defecation on the carcass. Inspector Brinkley concluded that the carcass had been damaged by scavengers -- an opinion with which I concurred after examining the animal.
The owner advised us that he had been trying to contact his veterinarian so that the cause of the animal's death could be determined. The owner later advised that the carcass was examined by Dr. Cole of the Rio Bravo Animal Clinic on September 15, 1979. Tissue samples were taken by Dr. Cole, who forwarded them to the Animal Diagnostic Laboratory in Albuquerque for examination.
On October 2, Dr. Clair Hibbs, director of the New Mexico Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, submitted the following report based on an examination on tissue samples: Clostridium was found in the tissue samples, but no positive cause of death could be determined. The lesions described by Dr. Cole were in all probability caused by magpies.
Figure No. 32 shows the damage to the rear portion of the carcass. Note how jagged the opening is.
Figure No. 33 shows that one of the nipples has been removed from the udder, similar to the previous Truchas incident, in preparation, in my opinion for the removal of the entire udder.
In conclusion, once again, the evidence discovered in this Particular case tips the scale in favor of the verdict, scavenger-induced damage -- a verdict shared by Inspector Brinkley and Dr. Hibbs.
I initiated this investigation after receiving a telephone call on September 27 from the state police in Espanola, who said that a possible mutilation had been reported to them at 8:15 p.m. by an individual residing in the medanales area.
On September 28 I conducted an on-the-scene investigation. Accompanying me were district attorney investigator, Cipriano Padilla, and the owner of the dead animal. The alleged victim was a three to four-year-old female bovine, weighing approximately 600 pounds, who had calved within the last month -- as previously noted, a very critical time for a cow. The owner said. the animal was last seen alive approximately ten days before it was found. The animal had been dead for at least two days at the time it was discovered.
The carcass was found lying on its left side. The right eye, the end of the tongue, the udder and all but one teat were missing. The anus area had also been damaged. When the carcass was rolled over, the left eye was still intact, as was one teat, which had been under the carcass. The underside of the carcass at the mouth area was stained with blood. In addition, a considerable amount of blood had drained onto the ground. There was bird defecation on the animal, and the owner said he had seen magpies on the carcass when he found it. During our investigation we also observed crows and vultures in the vicinity.
Figure No. 34 shows the carcass from the rear position. The photograph was taken approximately eight feet away, giving the impression that the damage in the anus area was fairly smooth. Bird defecation can also be seen on the carcass.
Figure No. 35 is a close-up of the anus area. Here the roughness and jaggedness of the damage is much more discernible.
Figure No. 36 discloses the damage to the udder area.
Figure No. 37 shows the teat and nipple, which were still intact when the carcass was rolled over. I suggested this is a strong indication of scavenger damage since that teat and nipple were not accessible to scavengers because of the position in which the animal died.
In conclusion, the investigative team decided that all the damage was consistent with what one would normally expect from scavengers. Also, there was bird defecation on the carcass, and magpies had been observed on the body the day it was found. The photograph sequence reveals once more why distant photographs are not reliable when trying to make a case for "surgical precision." It is only when an area is examined close-up that the jaggedness of the cuts becomes apparent. Although the cause of death was not determined, the owner said none of his 30 head of cattle had been vaccinated.
Mel Sedillo of the New Mexico Livestock Board contacted me on October 9 and stated that a cattle mutilation had been reported in the San Lorenzo area. An on-the-scene investigation was conducted that day by myself; Henry Torres, inspector for the New Mexico Livestock Board; and Richard Montoya, deputy for the Grants County Sheriff's office. The owners of the animal were also present.
The dead animal was a four-year-old female bovine, which had been found lying on its left side. The animal was last seen alive several days before. As in other cases, it had recently calved. Its right eye and udder were missing, and there was a hole, approximately six inches in diameter, in the anus area. The carcass appeared to be in a very advanced stage of bloat. Bird defecation was also observed on the animal, and canine tracks were discovered in the immediate vicinity.
Figure No. 38 shows the tongue intact but protruding, making it a very accessible target. As stated previously, it is not unusual for an animal to die with the tongue in this position.
Figure No. 39 shows the damage in the udder area and clearly reveals the jaggedness of the destruction, particularly in the 5 o'clock and 11 o'clock areas. The carcass also bears evidence of a skin disorder known as scabies, which could be misinterpreted as burn marks.
Figure No. 40 is a close-up of the badly damaged anus area. The dark portions are dry blood, which also could be misinterpreted as burn marks. The jaggedness of the cut is very noticeable.
Figure No. 41 is also of the anus area, but after the animal has been rolled over. This shows the same damage as revealed in Figure No. 40, but now the jaggedness is much more noticeable. Once again, this demonstrates that care must be taken when making conclusions based on photographs.
During the course of the investigation, the owner told me she had reported the incident as a mutilation because of what she had read in the newspapers -- particularly the coverage afforded the cattle mutilation conference that took place April 20 (1979) in Albuquerque. However, in the opinion of both Inspector Torres and Deputy Montoya, the damage to the carcass was totally consistent with what one would expect to find from normal predator and scavenger activity. The writer, after viewing the damage and weighing the evidence provided by the bird defecation and canine tracks, agreed with their opinion.
This particular case might prompt the question -- "Why is it that while considerable damage was inflicted elsewhere, the tongue, an extremely accessible target, remained intact?" Once again, the amount and type of damage depends on when a person arrives on the scene, and which scavengers are in the vicinity. Much also depends on the behavior of these scavengers.
For example, birds would not be feeding on the carcass at the same time that canine scavengers are eating their fill.
On November 5, the New Mexico State Police informed my office of a possible mutilation that had been reported that day by a Bernalillo rancher. The resident claimed she had found her two-year-old, home-bred heifer dead and mutilated the previous day. Prior to that time, she said her animal had been fat and in good health.
I conducted an on-the-scene investigation November 5, accompanied by the owner and her son. The carcass was lying on the left side with its head facing east. It had been dead approximately three days. The udder, anus area, and the right foreleg were badly damaged. The eyes and ears, however, were intact. I observed that the blood was pooled in the carcass.
No animal or bird tracks were visible. However, the ground was such that tracks would not have been readily observable. Also, the carcass was lying in a heavily shaded area. There was no evidence of visitation by birds, which perhaps explains why the eyes were still intact.
The owner's son said he had contacted an inspector from the New Mexico Livestock Board, who advised him that the animal had probably died of blackleg. The son also stated they had lost a two-year-old heifer approximately two weeks ago. He reported that at that time, he had seen adults carrying rifles in the area. He also said he had observed dogs and coyotes work on the heifer, which had been found with 150 yards of the animal now being investigated.
The owner added that the herd had not been vaccinated against blackleg since her husband's death several years ago. The owner's son, however, said he was rounding up the herd and transporting them to another area to initiate a vaccination program.
Figure No. 42 illustrates the damage done to both the right foreleg and the udder area.
Figure No. 43 is a close-up of the foreleg area, revealing the jaggedness of the damage, particularly in the 12 o'clock position. It also shows the exposed bone.
Figure No. 44 is a close-up shot of the udder area. The jaggedness of the damage is clearly shown.
In conclusion, this case can best be described as another "classic" scavenger-induced mutilation. The animal probably died of blackleg, the carcass subsequently being damaged by animals. The jaggedness of the cuts certainly supports such a conclusion as does the fact that two weeks earlier canines were seen in the vicinity feeding on another carcass.
On November 17 at 9:30 a.m. Henry Guillen, New Mexico livestock inspector, advised me that a cattle mutilation had been reported to him that morning at El Rito.
I conducted an on-the-scene investigation that day. The animal was a three-year-old female bovine, which weighed approximately 1,000 pounds. It had been found dead the previous afternoon at 4:30 p.m. The animal was lying on its left side. The only damage I observed was a hole, approximately five inches in diameter, in the anus area. The rest of the animal was intact, including the udder. Blood had drained from both the anus area and the mouth to the lower part of the carcass.
Inspector Henry Guillen examined the animal and said it showed signs of blackleg. He then cut its leg to show the owner the bubbles characteristic of blackleg. The owner said he had not vaccinated his cattle against that disease this year.
There was bird defecation on the carcass. Also, on the ground nearby was a ham bone, which the animal's owner identified as one he had recently given his German Shepherd dog. The owner also said there are numerous coyotes in the area, which can be heard every night. Of interest is the fact that the udder had not been touched. The animal was not lactating and according to New Mexico Game Department records, the vultures had recently departed the area for the winter. Whether or not this is significant is not known.
The carcass was revisited on two more occasions, and severe additional damage was noted to the carcass each time.
Figure No. 45 which was taken at a distance of six to eight feet, shows the damage to the anus area. Noticeable blood stains near the anus area are visible where body fluids have drained.
Figure No. 46 is a close-up of the same area and clearly depicts the jaggedness of the wound, particularly at the 12 o'clock position and along the entire lower left side.
Figure No. 47 which is especially revealing, shows the same damage after the animal was rolled over. Canine mouth marks are clearly visible along the entire upper right edge of the cavity.
Figure No. 48 is very pertinent to this entire project. It illustrates a surgically precise cut, which was made with a surgeon's scalpel by Cattle Inspector Guillen when he was revealing the symptoms of blackleg to the owner. One should keep in mind the appearance of this incision when viewing photographs of damage reportedly done "with surgical precision."
In conclusion, the evidence uncovered in this incident is very revealing. The animal had obviously died of blackleg. The bird defecation on the carcass, the canine mouth marks along the upper right edge of the cavity, and the dog's ham bone laying nearby provide a clear indication of how and by whom the carcass was damaged.
The photographs are also of interest. When viewed from a distance of six to eight feet (Figure No. 45), the damage to the anus area could almost be described as a perfect circle. However, when this same area is photographed, with magnification, at a closer proximity (Figure No. 46), jagged and torn edges can readily be observed. When the carcass is rolled over and the same area photographed again (Figure No. 47), mouth prints are visible, which indicate that the family dog was doing more at the carcass than merely dropping its ham bone. The dissimilarity between these cuts and the one made by Inspector Guillen with a scalpel are clearly evident in Figure No. 48. A close-up examination reveals a world of difference between this smooth, precise, uninterrupted incision and the type of "cut" revealed in the close-up photographs of the damaged anus.
Although this incident was not reported as a mutilation, it is of special interest to the project because of the damage to the carcass. The animal was owned by a rancher from Cordova, who had noticed that his cow had not been coming to feed for several days. Instead, the animal remained in a shaded area, which was readily visible to the owner. On December 4 at 8 a.m. the owner discovered the animal had died and that the anus area had been removed in a nearly-perfect circle. Having heard about my project from his son, who is an Indian tribal police officer, the owner contacted me to see if I would be interested in observing the animal.
Shortly afterwards I went to Cordova accompanied by Dr. Philip Shultz, a retired Santa Fe surgeon; Cipriano Padilla, district attorney investigator; and Henry Guillen, livestock inspector. In the presence of the owner and his son, we examined the animal, which was a female bovine approximately five years old. It was lying on its left side about 75 yards from the ranch house.
There was a five to six-inch circular hole in the anus area. One common characteristic of the so-called "classic mutilation" is the perfectly cored anus. This anus certainly appeared to fit that description. However, the evidence points to scavengers rather than skilled surgeons as the parties responsible for the damage, for although the incision seems to be very smooth when viewed from a distance of six feet, closer inspection reveals that the edges of the out are actually quite jagged, particularly in the 7 o'clock position. Moreover, coyote droppings were found near the carcass. According to the owner, coyotes are quite prevalent in the area as are wild dog packs.
Evidence found at the scene indicated the animal had suffered from diarrhea. Judging from the dark color of the stool, it also had been hemorrhaging internally. A blood sample .was taken from the exterior jugular vein by Dr. Shultz. In an effort to help the owner, this specimen and a skin sample, together with other evidence collected at the scene, (i.e. blood stained leaves) were taken to Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) for analysis.
Although unable to determine the exact cause of death, LASL in a letter dated December 7, reported that the leaves and droppings contained blood, indicating the animal had suffered from a severe bloody diarrhea. Inspector Guillen had previously suggested that red water -- a type of clostridial infection known as bacillary hemoglobiuria -- could have been the cause of death, since other cases had recently been reported in the area. Unfortunately, LASL was unable to test for clostridium perfingens, as the facilities were temporarily unavailable. However, a chemical analysis of the blood sample was conducted in their conventional proximity screen for 52 agents. The results were negative. In short, there was no evidence the animal had been drugged.
As a result of these tests, LASL concluded that the animal, which had obviously been ill for some time, had probably died from a massive infection. They also maintained that the carcass had probably been damaged by ravens, magpies, and other scavengers, for the skin sample had obviously been torn. However, there were no teeth marks found in the specimens submitted.
Figure No. 49 was taken at approximately six feet from the carcass and shows a hole that could easily be described at this distance as a perfect circle. It should be noted that a collection of blood has drained into the lower portion of the cavity.
Figure No. 50 is a close-up shot of the same area taken with a macro lens. As is evident in this picture, the edges of the circle are actually quite jagged. In addition, one can see a small portion of its innards hanging over the edge of the circle,, which is certainly a far cry from the surgical precision so often attributed to such cuts.
In conclusion, this case again emphasizes the fact that a carcass viewed at a distance appears quite different from one viewed at closer range. As Figure No. 49 so graphically illustrates, it can easily be understood why a person viewing the carcass from a distance of several feet might describe the damaged anus as a feat of "surgical precision." Closer inspection, however, would certainly negate this conclusion. In short, both the evidence at the scene and the tests performed by LASL clearly indicate that the animal had died from natural causes and was subsequently damaged by scavengers.
On January 30, 1980, Dr. Clair Hibbs, director of the Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, informed me that a mutilation had been reported in Tijeras Canyon.
I immediately contacted the owner of the animal, who stated that at 2 p.m. on January 25, he had found his two-year-old Holstein heifer dead in a pasture, located approximately 200 yards from his house. He said there was a hole, 8 inches in diameter, in the rear end of the animal, which was lying on its left side. The animal was last seen alive the night of January 24, when she was fed. According to the owner, the cow was healthy, but had not been vaccinated against blackleg.
The owner also told me that an inspector from the New Mexico Livestock Board had examined the animal on January 26 and had indicated to the owner that it had probably died of blackleg, the carcass subsequently being damaged by animals. The owner noted there are coyotes in the area. He also pointed out that his neighbor has three dogs -- two German Shepherds and one St. Bernard. However, he said that in his opinion, these dogs would not have hurt the cow, since they were accustomed to playing together. The owner further stated that there appeared to be no bird defecation on the carcass nor any tracks nearby. However, he pointed out that the ground was frozen and therefore tracks would not likely be left.
The owner further stated that he had been told that blackleg was not prevalent in the winter, and therefore he discounted the livestock inspector's observations. Consequently, he immediately butchered the animal, kept the choice cuts for himself, and distributed the balance of the meat to his neighbor to be used as dog food.
As soon as I learned of this development, I contacted Dr. Hibbs and told him the owner had butchered the animal. Dr. Hibbs advised that the owner had been misinformed about blackleg, which can occur any time. Dr. Hibbs then contacted the owner and advised him about the danger of blackleg. He warned the owner that since the animal's death had not been diagnosed, the meat should be destroyed.
On February 41 Dr. Hibbs told me he had discussed the entire situation with the owner, and had learned that the animal in question had been consuming a lot of leafy green alfalfa. Dr. Hibbs said he now believed the cow may have died of bloat. This observation is particularly interesting in view of the fact that both the owner and his neighbor, on witnessing the butchering of the animal, observed that its stomach was full of alfalfa.
The following incidents were investigated primarily by officials of the New Mexico State Police, the New Mexico Livestock Board, and county sheriff departments, who communicated their findings to me as part of their participation in Operation Animal Mutilation.
Of these 12 incidents, 5 were immediately resolved by the investigating officer upon arrival at the scene. The first incident was reported on August 13 to the state police in Socorro. It was investigated by Officer Mike Martinez of the New Mexico State Police, who attributed the mutilation to obvious scavenger damage.
The next two incidents occurred in Truchas and were reported to the state police in Espanola on September 28, 1979.
These cases were investigated by Inspector Henry Guillen of the ,New Mexico Livestock Board. He diagnosed the cause of death as red water and claimed that no mutilation had occurred. The information on each of these three incidents was transmitted to me via state police radio. I received no additional reports.
The last two cases were also immediately resolved at the scene. The fourth incident occurred in the Belen area and .was reported to the New Mexico Livestock Board on May 8, 1980. Livestock Inspector Joe Jackson investigated the suspected mutilation. He concluded that the animal had obviously been butchered at the scene for particular cuts of meat.
The last incident involved the suspected mutilation of two elk in the vicinity of the Pecos Ranger Station. This incident was reported on May 13, 1980, to the New Mexico Game and Fish Department. Upon investigating the alleged mutilation, Game Officer John Miles determined that the two animals had been killed by lightning, their carcasses subsequently being damaged by scavengers.
The remaining incidents will be discussed in the pages that follow. In virtually every instance, the investigating officers reached the same verdict that my own on-the-scene investigation produced -- damage by predators and scavengers.
On June 18 at 7:30 a.m., nine animals were reported dead in the Malaga area. The owner also told officials at the Eddy County Sheriff's office that some of the animals had been mutilated.
On-the-scene investigation was conducted by Deputy Tommy Box, who reported finding two dead pregnant nanny goats, one dead kid goat, and six dead chickens. All of the animals were discovered in the pen in which they lived. One of the goats was missing a teat. It had puncture wounds on its throat, and a 17-inch circle of hide was missing.
Deputy Box said the scene had been completely disturbed, since the carcasses had already been taken to the dump. However, he observed there were tracks in the pen, which he believed were made by a mountain lion. The deputy concluded that the damage had probably been done by a mountain lion, since these predators are not uncommon in the area. The number of animals killed, all of which were in a penned area, and the type of damage done is totally consistent with the normal behavior pattern for mountain lions.
On October 11 at 8:45 a.m., Officer Gabe Valdez of the New Mexico State Police contacted the district attorney's office in Espanola and told the assistant district attorney, Sam Quintana, that a "classic" mutilation had occurred in Dulce the night before. (Don Hannah of the New Mexico State Police Crime Laboratory later reported that Officer Valdez had told him the .incident had occurred the previous weekend.)
Quintana informed Valdez that I was in Silver City investigating another cattle mutilation, but that he would furnish the information to coordinating secretary, Diana Moyle. Moyle then contacted me and I instructed her to immediately call the state police crime laboratory and request that personnel be sent immediately to Dulce to assist in the investigation. I felt such an action was warranted since Officer Valdez had determined the mutilation was a "classic." I then proceeded to the scene at Dulce, accompanied by district attorney investigator, Cipriano Padilla.
While I was enroute, Officer Valdez contacted the coordinating secretary and told her he had learned that I and personnel from the state police crime laboratory were on our way to Dulce. Valdez said that the owner of the mutilated animal did not want the crime laboratory nor any investigative team headed by me to enter her property to conduct an investigation for fear of publicity. The officer said he had just contacted the state police crime laboratory and had cancelled their trip. He advised Moyle to radio this information to me. After learning about the change in plans, I decided it best to cancel the proposed investigation.
Four months later, during a conversation with Officer Valdez on February 26, 1980, he referred to this incident and again stated that the owner had not wanted the mutilation investigated. I consider it unfortunate that the owner's fear about publicity led her to reject our offer to investigate the incident. I thought it was generally known that I was not releasing any information to the media concerning any investigation I was conducting.
Interestingly, in regards to the media, Officer Valdez has been one of the more outspoken individuals on cattle mutilations. He has taken a special interest in this mutilation phenomenon, and is probably one of New Mexico's foremost proponents of the theory that many of these cattle deaths and subsequent mutilations are engineered by humans. His articulate reports have frequently captured the favor of the press, which places a premium on attention-getting news.
During our conversation, Officer Valdez stated that since my project began, he has investigated several other reported mutilations. However, since none were "classic mutilations," he decided not to report them to me. However, he assured me that if he learned of any other mutilations that appeared to be "classic" cases, he would immediately protect the crime scene and contact, me so that I could conduct an investigation.
It should also be noted that during this interview, Valdez admitted to me that he realized that a tremendous amount of misinformation has been circulated regarding cattle mutilations. Nevertheless, he stated he was certain that the ones that had occurred in Dulce were all "classics." This is a strange comment coming from an individual who, at Senator Schmitt's hearing, had testified that there had been 90 cattle mutilations in New Mexico. Officer Valdez then said he would furnish me with all the information he had collected on cattle mutilations in order to assist with this project. To date, not one piece of material has been received.
This investigation was initiated following a report to the New Mexico State Police of a possible mutilation in the Jordan area. On-the-scene examination was conducted by Captain Carroll of the New Mexico State Police. Accompanying him were Officer Leonard Elis of the New Mexico State Police in Melrose, Inspector Ray Hester of the New Mexico Livestock Board, and Joel Garrett of the Quay County Sheriff's office in Tucumcari.
The animal in question was a 16-month-old heifer calf, which weighed approximately 700 pounds. The carcass was found lying on its left side about 50 yards north of a roadway. The animal was last seen alive on October 11. It had been found dead on October 15, but was not reported to authorities until October 18. The carcass was in an advanced stage of bloating. The anus and udder areas were damaged as well as the mouth, nose, and left ear.
The investigators concluded that the damage, which indicated irregular tearing, was totally consistent with normal predator and scavenger activity. Bird and canine defecation as well as canine tracks were observed near the carcass. Domestic dogs, who lived at a farm one-half mile east of the carcass, had been seen by their owner going to and from the dead animal.
Upon examining the carcass the investigators found a round hole, approximately three-eights inch in diameter, in the neck. When a wire was placed in this hole, an entrance and exit wound were discovered. These wounds, together with the projectile pattern, indicated the animal had probably been shot. it should be noted that during this period of time there had been antelope hunting in the area. Subsequent interviews revealed that hunters had indeed been operating in the vicinity. The investigators thus concluded that the animal had been shot, the carcass subsequently being damaged by scavengers.
On October 27 at 9:30 p.m., I was advised by Deputy William Hasenbuhler of the Lincoln County Sheriff's office, that he had investigated a cattle mutilation in Socorro County that day. Although the carcass had reportedly been found before 10 that morning, the sheriff's office had not been notified until approximately 5:15 p.m.
According to Hasenbuhler the animal was a 10 to 14-year-old cow and weighed between 900 and 1000 pounds. The animal had been, dead for about two days and had a decided odor. The carcass was lying on its right side, and the left eye, according to Hasenbuhler, looked like it had been pecked out by birds. A piece of hide, 2-1/2 square feet in size was missing, as was the udder. The anus also "appeared to have been eaten by predators." In addition, the rear portion of the carcass "had been eaten to such an extent that the hip was out of the socket." The tongue, however, was intact.
Deputy Hasenbuhler said that when he arrived on the scene, he had observed an eagle on the carcass. He also reported finding canine tracks in the immediate vicinity and bird defecation on the body. The deputy pointed out that the area where the carcass was lying has a heavy population of black ravens. According to him, the vultures had apparently departed for the season, and the area is not frequented by magpies.
On November 9, the superintendent of Carson National Forest informed me that a soil scientist assigned to that forest had, discovered a dead bovine heifer near Ojo Caliente. The animal, which weighed approximately 600 pounds, was lying on its right side. Its head was missing and there was a five-inch hole in the anus area. The soil scientist estimated that the heifer had been dead for approximately two days.
I immediately contacted Ray Brown, the district ranger for this area, who told me he was familiar with the carcass and had first seen it on November 3 and again on November 6.. Brown said when he first saw the animal its head and udder were still intact, but the eyes and anus were being pecked out by birds, whom he personally observed working on the carcass.
In conclusion, most of the damage to the carcass was undoubtedly inflicted by birds, who were actually seen on the animal. One can only speculate as to what happened to the head, especially since it was still intact when the carcass was first observed. However, it should be noted that the skulls of bovine animals are commonly used as yard decorations by people wishing to create a Southwestern decor. In fact, the current prices for such skulls range from $50 to $75, depending on where they are purchased.
On December 24, Deputy Tommy Box of the Eddie County Sheriff's office conducted an on-the-scene investigation of a 400-pound yearling steer, which had been reported dead and mutilated. On December 27, Deputy Box returned to the scene accompanied by Sgt. Bob Dodgin of the New Mexico State Police and Morgan Bates of the New Mexico Livestock Board.
The animal was lying on its right side. Its anus area was damaged and there was a large opening in its left side.
Although the investigating officers believed this area had been cut, the edges were very jagged. The animal's stomach was laying on the ground a few feet in front of this opening. When the carcass was first examined by Deputy Box, a three-inch piece of meat was also found on the ground a few feet behind the animal.
Although both the owner and Deputy Box believed the calf had previously been healthy, a necropsy performed at the scene by Dr. Dean Reynolds revealed lesions on its lungs, which were diagnosed as two-week-old pneumonia. Dr. Reynolds concluded the animal had died from pneumonia. However, he said he could not explain the missing rectum or the cavity in the side of the animal. In his report he states that "it looks like someone is playing games after the calf died."
This animal, like the one described next in the Loving incident, had recently been brought from Texas. I have been told that it is not uncommon to find pneumonia in animals that have been recently transported from Texas into New Mexico, particularly during the winter months.
Photographs of this incident were obtained and have been made part of the project file.
This investigation was initiated by the New Mexico State Police as the result of a report made by Deputy Tommy Box of the Eddy County Sheriff's office. On December 27, Sgt. Bob Dodgin of the New Mexico State Police arrived at the scene. Accompanying him were Deputy Box and Morgan Bates of the New Mexico Livestock Board.
The animal, a 300-pound heifer, was found lying on its right side. It had been dead between eight and twelve hours. The soft tissues both above and surrounding the nostril were missing, as was the nostril itself. No other damage was noted. The feces oozing from the rectum contained blood and mucus, which is obviously one reason why this area is such a likely target for predators.
The calf appeared to have been sick. In fact, the officers on the scene decided it had probably died of pneumonia. This diagnosis was later confirmed by Dr. Dean Reynolds, a Carlsbad veterinarian. The calf had just been shipped to this area from south Texas. In fact, all the calves in this particular pasture were sick and being treated for "shipping fever" or pneumonia by Dr. Reynolds.
No tracks were observed at the scene, but as the official report points out, this was probably due to the hardness of the ground and the fact that many cattle had been milling around. However, the report also notes there were several wild dogs in the area. The officers suspected that the skin an meaty area of the nose had been eaten by scavengers. They further theorized that something had started eating on the carcass but was scared away at daylight perhaps by traffic from the road, which tan only a few yards from the carcass.
It should be kept in mind that all of the cases investigated under this project -- with the exception of the T-Bone and Cordova incidents -- were reported as mutilations. Furthermore, in the majority of these cases, the term "surgical precision" was used to describe the damage.
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