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.

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. Harry D. Anthony, 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. S. M. Dennis, Kansas State University

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 increased.

Dr. L. G. Morehouse, University of Missouri

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 after death."

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 mutilation."

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.