- Note - This story still contains references
to "statanic worshippers and drunken teenagers" as possible suspects
in cattle mutilations which have been ongoing for nearly 30 years...
- ARROYO HONDO, N.M. (AP) - Rancher Jessie Gonzales was tending his
cattle under a pre-dawn sky when he stumbled on a frightening sight.
- There in the pasture, one of his prime
bulls lay mutilated. A large, neat hole had been cut in the flank and the
animal's rectum had been cored out. The scene was odd, though, for no blood
poured from the massive wounds and there were no tracks from predators.
- Another rancher, Tony Trujillo, found
an eerily similar scene last spring. "The funny thing is, that you
don't see the dogs or the birds. They don't get near it," Trujillo
- For decades, seemingly healthy cattle
have turned up dead in northern New Mexico, bearing mysterious holes, severed
ears and missing tongues and sex organs. There is never a sign of struggle.
- Some blame the mutilations on space aliens,
others credit the government, satan worshippers or drunken teen-agers.
Skeptical investigators argue the animals simply died naturally and were
attacked by hungry predators.
- But townspeople in this small northern
New Mexico ranching community where pickup trucks outnumber cars refuse
to accept the mutilations as a natural phenomenon. Unlike another mythical,
alien-like creature dubbed "chupacabra" - or "goatsucker"
in Spanish - the cattle deaths are serious business.
- "People who raise animals don't
cry wolf," Gonzales said. "When you have mysterious deaths like
these, you have questions."
- A prosecutor for Taos, Colfax and Union
counties says he wants answers, too. The investigation stems from concerns,
frustration and lost money among constituents, District Attorney John Paternoster
- His office has teamed with the Las Vegas,
Nev.-based National Institute for Discovery Science in a tissue-testing
investigation. The private lab is funded by Robert Bigelow, a wealthy real
estate mogul who once donated $3.7 million to the University of Nevada
to create a department for students to study parapsychology.
- NIDS describes itself as a nascent research
organization that studies a variety of unconventional scientific theories.
- Six strange animal attacks were reported
last year, though there may have been many more that went unreported, Paternoster
- "The farmers and ranchers have been
reluctant to report cattle mutilations, they don't want to be painted ...
as being crackpots and ufologists," Paternoster said.
- Paul Velasquez, a rancher in Blanko,
says two of his bulls were mutilated more than a year ago, costing him
$2,000. The animals' intestines were cut, the right ears sliced off, the
tongues removed and precise holes were punched on the animals' rectums.
- Velasquez suspects UFOs are responsible.
He scoffs at a suggestion that birds picked at the cattle after they died
of natural causes.
- "What kind of birds do we have that
would cut a hole with a sharp object? We don't have those kind of birds,"
- Once a mutilated cow is discovered, an
investigator from the district attorney's office collects evidence from
the scene, Paternoster said.
- The lab also sends a veterinarian to
collect tissue samples from the animal and a series of laboratory tests
are conducted, including toxicology and bacterial exams to determine the
cause of death, research scientist Colm Kelleher said.
- The lab has tested 10 animals since it
began studying the animals just over a year ago and wants to investigate
at least a dozen mutilations before it speculates on a cause of the attacks,
- It already has determined that some of
the animals died of natural causes, he said.
- Both Paternoster and Kelleher say they
are open-minded about the cause. "I really want to have to a scientific,
intellectual line of inquiry and not taint our discovery by any preconceived
notions," Paternoster said.
- In the late 1970s, New Mexico spent $50,000
investigating cattle mutilation reports. A chief investigator, retired
FBI agent Kenneth Rommel, said then that the mutilations were the result
of predators and bloating.
- Paternoster scoffs at those findings.
"I was not satisfied that there was sufficiently comprehensive proof
that animals were being attacked," he said.
- A New Mexico Livestock Board investigation
into the mutilations conducted several years ago concluded that there was
"possible involvement of clandestine Satanic groups."
- With a combination of scientific research
and cooperation from the district attorney's office, Kelleher said he hopes
an answer will be found.
- And how long will the search continue?
- "Until we find an answer,"