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by Ray Nelson

Originally published UFO Report November 1978

Cattle mutilations are the most baffling mystery in the United States today, an incredibly strange puzzle where the pieces don’t go together – almost as if the various pieces were from different puzzles. The killers operate with unbelievable stealth, often within earshot of ranch homes, but are never caught in the act. Their method of killing cattle, like their purpose, remains a total mystery. Laboratories attempting to autopsy the mutilated animals are simply unable to pinpoint the cause of death. Investigators find no footprints or vehicle marks around the carcasses. However, strange circular tracks are sometimes found in the vicinity of the mutilated animals, baffling imprints that are perfectly circular and evenly depressed, and others that are shaped like suction cups. Sometimes, larger pad marks are seen, laid out in triangular fashion as if a tripod-like object had landed near the animal.

Ranchers in the Southwest are being subjected to a reign of terror by these night mutilators. Although they’ve struck in two dozen states, they’ve hit hardest in Colorado and New Mexico. As of this writing, over a hundred animals have been killed in Colorado and almost half that many in New Mexico.

Who are the mutilators and why do they perform their grisly rites? No one knows, but whoever or whatever they are, the sinister evidence of their activities is unmistakable. They come at night and always in silence. They kill an animal silently, usually a cow or a bull but sometimes a horse, and with uncanny surgical precision they cut out certain body parts. When the animal is found the next day or several days later, the macabre trademarks of the mutilators are there: a tongue missing, an eye cut out, an ear gone, sections of hide sliced away and peeled back, sex organs cut out, and, most striking of all, a “cored out” rectum. The rectum is simply gone, carved out 18 inches deep and done so perfectly that some investigators even suspect laser surgery!

Adding to the confusion is evidence that suggests the cattle are being airlifted. Strap marks and bruises found on some of the mutilated cattle seem to indicate that they were picked up and carried through the air for a distance after being killed and mutilated. A few of the animals killed recently have even had legs broken where it appeared that clamping devices had been attached for the purpose of airlifting the carcasses.

Equally mysterious is the fact that coyotes and scavenger birds will not usually come around the bodies of mutilated cattle, though they will readily feed on those of animals killed in conventional ways.


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Manuel Gomez,
talks with the author at the site of the April 23rd mutilation. He has lost four animals to the mutilators.

And then there are the strange lights. During periods of cattle mutilation activity, some claim to see orange lights about half the size of the full moon skimming along at night and hovering over “mutilation country,” and others see bright blue lights doing the same. Ranchers see them, lawmen see them, and travelers see them. During an especially intense period of cattle mutilations in Colorado last year, ranch people saw one particular light flying around in the night skies so often that they nicknamed it the Big Mama. In addition to the unidentified lights, there are also many mysterious helicopter sightings, unmarked choppers flying low and equipped with powerful spotlights. In Colorado and eastern New Mexico, ranchers have seen what they describe as “small fast flying helicopters” painted white with no numbers or other markings.

Could the mutilators be linked to UFOs? Many think so. The killers seem to come from the sky and vanish into the sky. Their work is done quickly and with astonishing surgical precision. They appear to have no trouble handling the heavy animals. Cows and bulls weighing 1,000 pounds and more are maneuvered easily by the mutilators. Ranchers who regularly transport and handle these big animals will attest to the fact that it’s not easy to move them, dead or alive, much less carry them by air, hover, and drop them!

Many of the dead animals appear to have been slammed to the ground. In one recent case, the killers broke a bull’s pelvic bone to get the rectum cored out as deeply as they did. ” It would take a helluva strong force to do that,” said one investigator.

The mysterious nocturnal lights seen so often in mutilation country lend support to the UFO theory; so do the unexplainable round prints. During a rash of cattle killings in northern New Mexico in July, the prints were a dominant and frightening feature of the mystery.

Of the 18 known mutilation cases in New Mexico since the beginning of January 1978, 13 have been in the vicinity of Dulce, a small picture-postcard village lying in the heart of the Jicarilla Apache Indian reservation.

One of the perfectly round tracks, about six Inches In diameter and one-and-half inch deep, found near. mutilated cow on the ranch of Rawlelgh Tafoya.

Manuel Gomez, a rancher, and store owner who lives on the outskirts of town lost a bull to the mutilators on the night of Apr. 23, 1978, his second loss of the year to the killers. The animal was killed and mutilated less than 500 yards from the ranch house where Gomez’s entire family was sleeping, yet there was no sound, no disturbance of any kind. The bull, a yearling Charolais-Hereford cross, had been seen near the feed pen adjacent to the house on Sunday evening; according to Gomez’s son, the animal was “in perfect health.” The rancher, whose bedroom faces the pasture, was awake about five the next morning and saw the bull lying dead in the field.

“I looked through my binoculars and saw the bull was dead,” Gomez says, “and when I went out there at 6:30 the carcass was still warm. ”

The killers had left the bull on a dirt road running through the middle of the pasture. They had taken the usual parts from the animal and, characteristically, had left no human or vehicle tracks, but a short distance from the carcass there were several sets of mysterious circular imprints about four inches in diameter. “The road was hard packed·,” says Gomez, ” and the bull tracks didn’t go in as deep. This object … whatever it was . . . it made a deep impression on the road right here.”

State Police investigator Gabe Valdez recalls that the road was extremely hard and he had to kick several times with his boot heel to make any kind of imprint at all. He remembers finding the odd tracks not far from the carcass. “We started walking,” he says, “and we walked down the road. You could tell where those things came from, those imprints. They went about a hundred feet to the bull; it seems like they landed in something, right on the road, and got out and came up to where the bull was. It seems like they were sliding along . . . like crawling around and scraping all the way to the bull . . . and then they just disappeared! ”

These strange tracks are simply unexplainable Valdez can’t account for them; nobody can. One week later and 15 miles to the south, the mutilators struck the ranch of Rawleigh Tafoya, the Jicarilla Tribal Chief of Police. Investigator Bernard Inez found similar tracks at this site. “The ground was still wet,” Inez recalls, “because it had snowed the week before, and when I arrived there were no vehicle tracks. I stopped a good 50 yards away from the cow and walked up to it. There were plenty of cow prints in the area but no other kind of footprints or tracks. ” The animal’s udder had been removed, nothing else, and there appeared to be bruise marks on the body where straps had been attached. About 100 yards to the north of the cow, Inez and his fellow investigator Rogene Garambullo found several pairs.of perfectly round, deeply imprinted tracks. They were like the ones found at the Gomez incident, except they were slightly larger.

Strange tracks shaped like suction cups were found In the hard dirt at the site of the first mutillation on the ranch of Manual Gomez.

The inspector saw these strange tracks again several weeks later, on May 29th, when investigating a mutilated cow on the Howard Vigil ranch south of Dulce. The cow had a broken front left leg which looked like something had been clamped onto it. The tongue was cut out down deep into the throat, the sex organs were taken, and the rectum was cored out. The round prints were about 50 to 75 yards away from the carcass in an area of thick sagebrush. Inez remembers how the circles were pressed firmly into the sagebrush. He also · remembers that several branches had been broken off in the treetops above the carcass, as if the animal had been brought down through the trees and dropped to the ground. Flies buzzing around the broken tree branches suggested that blood from the carcass had been splattered on the treetops.

Who could be responsible for the bizarre mutilations? At present, lawmen, cattlemen, and livestock officials are hopelessly baffled by the activities of the mutilators.

Could the killers be members of a depraved, satanic cult, weirdos whose beliefs lean toward ritual murder and stylized mutilation of large animals?

The culprits might well be members of a group like the “Zyto” witchcraft cult now allegedly active in Arkansas. In the countryside around Bentonville, a quiet Ozark hamlet, farmers and law officers have been finding strange stone altars, complete with mystical. inscriptions, cow skulls, plastic human skulls, knives, candles, and other trappings of witchcraft. Recent livestock mutilations in the Bentonville area have been tied to the cult and are alleged to be connected with the group’s satanic initiation rites which involve removal of eyes, tongue, and sex organs.

The morbid doings of the Zyto cult and other witchcraft groups may explain away some of the mutilation cases, but they can hardly account for the whole mutilation mystery, not when the killers have terrorized livestock owners throughout the West and killed almost 300 animals without leaving a single tangible clue to their identity! The sheer logistics of the mutilation activity would seem to point toward a well-organized effort, perhaps a project of some kind aimed at sampling biological specimens from various areas of the country.

Conceivably, such a project could be part of a government research program in chemical, biological, or radiological warfare – but why kill privately owned cattle? Why not buy the animals on the open market and conduct secret experiments on remote government reservations? Some investigators think that if it’s our own government doing the mutilations, they could be following ·up on experiments conducted over a wide range of conditions allowing for varied factors of atmosphere, terrain, altitude, etc. There’s also some particularly chilling speculation that our government may have had an ” accident” several years ago, about the time the mutilations began, an accident in which potentially dangerous experimental chemicals or germs got loose over a vast sector of the United States … perhaps a massive-scale repeat of the Dugway Proving Grounds incident in Utah where an entire herd of sheep was killed by an accidental release of nerve gas. Such speculation is doubly frightening when it’s realized that whatever happened may now be affecting all forms of life over a vast area, and that cattle are merely the test animals for determining the extent of damage.

Admittedly, this is a bizarre possibility, but they seem the only kind left.

In the June 1976 mutilation on Manuel Gomez’s grazing land was a short distance from Dulce, investigate, s found tracks “like suction cups” about four inches in diameter and evenly spaced in triangular fashion along the ground.

Valdez explains that it appeared as if a “big thing ” with three bucket-sized pads had landed between some tree stumps near the cattle. ” These things were round pads, 14 inches across, just like a bucket,” he says. He measured the pads and they were five feet by five-and-a-half feet by six feet apart, shaped like a tripod. ” And off of the side,” he says, “came the small ones, four inches in diameter; you could tell where they got off of it. The cow was up on the hillside arid they chased her, 500 feet, and she fell down three times before she died.” Whether the mutilators are aliens, earthborn cultists, or earthborn scien­tific experimenters no one can say. But whoever they are, they’ve got livestock owners throughout the Southwest in a state of jittery anxiety, wondering where they’ll strike next. State Police officer Dan Sanchez, who investigated the July 10th mutilation of a 300-pound calf near Lindrith, N. M., says of the atmosphere now prevalent in his area: “It’s really weird out there . . . there’s just some­thing wrong.”

Although ranchers in the mutilation country are pretty worried and upset, state and federal officials do not seem to share their concerns.

The New Mexico Livestock Board, which regulates and investigates all mat­ters pertaining to cattle, is presently tak­ ing a very noncommital position with re­gard to the mutilations. The agency’s brand inspectors go out and look at muti­lation cases, then file reports with the Albuquerque office, but these reports are not pursued further; they wind up in a file cabinet. The Board’s chief investigator, Mel Sedillo, doesn’t think there’s anything to the mutilations; he thinks the
cattle deaths are caused by vandalism,

routine cattle diseases, lightning, and the like, and he believes the “mutila­tions” are simply the work of predators and scavengers. ” I’m as anxious to get to the bottom of this thing as anybody else,” says Sedillo, “but to me . . . and I’ve seen several of these animals … to me they look like predators have been eating on them.”

Sedillo’s boss, Livestock Board Direc­ tor G.L. Jones, is also skeptical about the mutilations. Although he accepts the idea that the animals are being cut up by humans, Jones sees little mystery in the various cases. “They find a dead ani­ mal,” he says, “and they cut it up just for kicks.” Still, Jones and Sedillo would like to see a formal investigation, a well or­ganized, properly funded effort to find out who might be doing the mutilations. Their agency has neither the manpower nor the funding to conduct such an in­vestigation, they insist.

The New Mexico State Police have been considering getting together an in­vestigative body made up of experts from within State Police ranks and aug­mented by independent scientists as consultants, but again such an investi­gation may never come about because of funding limitations. The Chief Inves­tigator for the organization, Richard C. De Baca, is interested in the mutilation mystery and would like to put the weight of his organization behind a serious in­vestigative effort, but he estimates a minimum of $10,000 plus an indetermi­nate number of man-hours to do the job right.

New Mexic o’s Governor, Jerry Apodaca, did authorize the use of a Na­tional Guard helicopter and crew during the height of mutilation activity in 1976, but the Guard chopper pilots were un­ able to find anything out of the ordinary in the night skies of northern New Mexico. The Governor has been briefed on the latest mutilation cases but has made no statement regarding these.

New Mexico Sen. Harrison Schmitt has also been fully briefed on the mutila­tions. His office made an announcement­ recently that the Senator was interested in looking into the mystery, but no further action has been taken.

Colorado’s Bureau of Investigation tackled the problem, but with the aid of sheriffs, state policemen, F.B.I. agents, and Colorado State University labs, the Bureau found nothing conclusive. Of the dozens of carcasses autopsied by C.S.U. labs, none showed any unusual cause of death. Deaths were attributed to ordinary cattle ailments and the sub­ sequent mutilations were said to have been caused by predators, birds, and miscellaneous small animals.

New Mexico’s prestigious Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories, birthplace.of the A-bomb, examined a number of the dead cattle and, in the words of lab Di­ rector Donald Peterson, found the muti­lations to be “baloney.” Los Alamos in­sists that the majority of the mutilated animals are highly infected with blackleg, but ranchers won’t buy this; they know blackleg when they see it and they know predator damage when they see it. As one irate cattleman put it, ” This wasn’t done by any kind of thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen ’em all!”

Los Alamos admits that some of the cuts on carcasses have been made by something artificial and extremely sharp. According to Gabe Valdez, the lab could easily distinguish between his own tissue sampling cuts and those of the mutilators, “and my knife is plenty sharp,” he says, “but it was dull com­ pared to whatever did that.”

Still more perplexing is that, inside the carcasses, some of the organs appear to turn “to mush,” in the words of one man who transported tissue samples to Los Alamos. The liver, he relates, was like so much peanut butter! Inconclusive lab reports on these samples simply state that the tissue was too far decayed to allow accurate analysis. Several cat­tlemen have observed that the carcass of a mutilated animal decays ” three times as fast” as that of any other dead animal.

While the controversy between cat­tlemen and officials continues, the night mutilators are running rampant in New Mexico, killing animals almost every week. Tierra Amarilla cattleman Robert Rodela lost a pregnant cow on July 3rd. After they had finished with the cow, the killers pulled out the unborn calf and mutilated it too! Rodela expressed the helplessness of small ranchers throughout the Southwest. ” I’ve heard a lot about this,” he says, looking at the ground and shaking his head, “but I never thought it would happen to me. I don’t know what to do about it, I just don’t know who to turn to.”

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