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Police Ask Scientific Group to Investigate Cattle Mutilations

Police in Montana investigating cattle mutilations are so frustrated that they have asked the National Institute for Discovery Science, a Nevada research institute dedicated to the study of anomalies, for help. Ranchers in Dupuyer and Fort Shaw have reported four cattle deaths. The animals had parts of their faces peeled off and their eyeballs and genitals were removed. Police say that whoever is responsible for the attacks left few clues behind.

The killings are similar to several cattle deaths in the 1970s in the same general area of north central Montana, which also remain unsolved. Colm Kelleher, of NIDS, said the sheriff?s office contacted them over the latest killings because ?they?d heard about some of our previous research from a retired deputy sheriff in that area.?

NIDS researches UFOs and related anomalous phenomena. It helped investigate the 1970s cattle mutilations and found a link between the killings and UFO sightings around Malmstrom Air Force Base. But Kelleher says while there is a link, they don?t know who or what is behind the attacks. ?Just because we found a statistical linkage between UFO sightings and animal mutilation, we are not drawing a direct link,? he says. ?We are completely undecided as to the perpetrators of these mutilations.?

Dan Campbell, of Pondera County Sheriff's Department, says, ?I don?t believe in little green men.?

The mutilations appear to be the work of the same culprit. On June 12 Don Reishus? son found a dead cow on the family ranch west of Dupuyer. The cow was missing the hide, nose and lips from the left side of the face. The cow?s left eyeball, udder, rectum, anus, genitals and part of the left ear also were cut out. The cow had been dead roughly one week.

Mark Taliaferro came upon a similar scene on his ranch west of Dupuyer on June 26. The skin was also peeled off the left side of the face and the nose, left eyeball, rectum, anus and genitals were missing. Again, part of the left ear had been cut off. The udder was intact. The killer left a strange pucker mark at the top of the left, front leg. This time the kill was only two to three days old. The sheriff?s office sent the head to NIDS in Las Vegas.

Last weekend, rancher Jim Sullivan discovered a cow with a skinned face on his ranch near Dupuyer. Sheriff Campbell hasn?t seen the carcass. Sunday, Steve Young discovered a dead cow with the tongue cut out on his ranch between Fort Shaw and Cascade. No hide was missing, but the cow?s left eye, one teat, the genitals, rectum and anus were gone. The Reishus and Taliaferro ranches had similar cases in the 1970s, Campbell says. In all the cases, the cutting was clean and precise.

?Whatever cuts the hide is so sharp that it cuts the hairs and everything, there?s no overlapping,? says Reishus, whose son Robert discovered the ranch was one cow short when they moved the herd out of a pasture. He circled back through the pasture, found the carcass and dragged it into some trees where he thought scavengers would clean it up. But they never showed. ?Nothing will touch it,? Reishus says. ?No bears, no coyotes, no magpies, not even the ravens.?

The cow?s blood appeared to have been drained, but there was little blood staining the ground, he says. Perhaps most puzzling was a strong, green discoloration found underneath the jaw of the cows on the Taliaferro and Young ranches. The streak extended from the jaw up to the top of the skull, Campbell says. The color did not appear to be caused by decomposition.

All the cattle were within 200 yards of a water source and within a mile of a road. Campbell doesn?t have any theories about who might be responsible and says, ?There?s no answers for our questions yet.?

He remembers hearing about the 1970s cases from his late father, Mike Campbell, who was a Pendroy-area rancher and livestock inspector and saw some of the carcasses. The bizarre spate of killings started with a report of a mutilated steer near Sand Coulee in late August 1974. By December 1977, Cascade County Sheriff Keith Wolverton and Teton County Sheriff Pete Howard and other county officers had investigated 67 mutilation cases in Cascade, Judith Basin, Chouteau, Teton and Pondera counties. As in the new cases, sex organs, eyes and ears were removed. The blood was often drained. The culprit left no tracks, even in mud and fresh snow.

Then, as now, the cases stumped investigators and grabbed headlines. ?I think 500 people have asked me, ?Well, what?s doing it??? Campbell says. ?If I knew, I would get it in the paper.?

Texas is being hit by cattle mutilations as well. According to a story by Jim Henderson, in the Friday, August 3 Houston Chronicle, ranchers are talking about a cult that drains the blood of the animals for use in satanic rituals. The sheriff believes most of the animals are dying of natural causes but admits he is perplexed by some of the circumstances. An investigator for a cattlemen?s association believes some of the deaths are caused by thieves stealing body parts, rather than meat.

Whatever the cause, cattle have been turning up dead under what ranchers consider mysterious circumstances at almost predictable intervals ? once or twice a year, around the time of Halloween or a religious holiday, such as Easter -- for nearly a decade. ?I don't know what it is,? says Johnny Lyon, who lost a valuable Charolais bull last Easter. ?It could be a prankster, but if it is the other (a cult), it could be pretty dangerous.?

Burleson, a hilly and wooded county about 60 miles northeast of Austin, is home to several small ranches where cattle often graze in thickets away from highways or other public vantage points. Often a carcass is not immediately discovered, which has made investigation difficult.

When Lyon found his bull at the rear of a 300-acre pasture, its abdomen had been split open and its genitals removed. He said that has been a consistent pattern in previous incidents.

Another rancher, whose family has lost several head of cattle in recent years, is so convinced that a cult is behind the deaths that he will speak only anonymously. There were no signs -- claw or teeth marks -- to suggest that his cow had been killed by a coyote or other predator, and ?there was not a drop of blood on the body or the ground,? the rancher says.

In all these cases, the cause of death was not apparent, and body organs and sometimes tongues had been removed while the valuable meat was untouched. In most cases, the genitals had been removed. And, Lyon says, it appeared in each case that the blood had been drained from the bodies. Scavenger birds do not feed on bloodless carcasses. ?The buzzards don?t even go up to them,? he says.

?I don't think it has anything to do with a cult,? says Sheriff Thomas Gene Barber. ?Some are natural deaths. But, some are very unusual . . . the removal of the organs. You wonder if any animal could do that.? He says it is also strange that most of the cattle whose deaths seemed unusual ?were the best animals they had,? not the weakest or sickest, which are the ones usually culled by predators.

In the past 10 years, Barber says, the unusual deaths have occurred about once a year, sometimes twice, and in one year -- 1994 -- there were four clustered near Halloween.He has investigated some, but the carcasses had decayed or were partially devoured by animals. ?If you can?t get to one in 24 hours, you can?t learn much about what killed it,? he says.

Barber says he suspects that some of the cattle died from overfertilized feed or toxic oleander bush that is found near water in that area. If any were killed by humans, ?I think it was some kids getting body parts.?

Evidence has been scarce. Barber says his deputies have never found footprints, tire tracks or other clues that would point to a suspect. At the same time, there has never been evidence of cult activity, such as candles, pentagrams or other ritualistic paraphernalia. ?It?s a mystery to me,? he says.

At the request of ranchers, Larry Gray, director of law enforcement for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, looked into a few of the incidents. Like the sheriff, Gray said he discounts the notion of a cult at work in the county. ?These things really get blown out of proportion,? he says. In 20 years of investigating cattle deaths in Texas and Oklahoma, ?I have never seen one that was cult-related.?

What the ranchers saw as an absence of blood, he speculates, probably was blood pooling at the bottom of the carcass. The split abdomens and missing genitals could have been the work of small animals after the bull died of other causes. ?Skunks and opossums have very sharp teeth, and they usually attack the softest tissue first.?

In cases where the victim was a bull, Gray thinks humans may have been responsible but probably not for occult reasons. Genitals of large bulls have been turned into grotesque walking sticks or into bags.

Lyon said he hopes to solve the mystery by someday getting a fresh carcass to Texas A&M University, where officials at the college of veterinary medicine have offered to perform necropsies.

For the Great Falls Tribune story,click here.

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