Rural Cow Mutilations Baffle Authorities
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If there's a black market for cow organs, someone in Montana may be rolling in moo-lah. After the mutilation of 12 to 15 (depending on who you talk to) cows and steer in about seven months, folks in sleepy Pondera County are baffled. They're still hoping that National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), a place known for using the scientific method to explore such anomalies as UFOs, cattle mutilations and other controversial topics, can answer who, or what, is behind these strange deaths.
It began in June. A Montana farmer discovered that some kind of unauthorized surgical procedure had been performed on his cow-one that left it dead and lacking blood, organs and hide. By now, it's happened to many more. Whoever or whatever has been mutilating the cattle leaves behind no evidence, not even footprints. It's so mysterious that the townsfolk don't know whether to blame the government, aliens or satanic cults -- but the mutilations are nothing new. They seem to come in spurts every 10 years or so, according to Pondera County Commission Chair Bill Rappold. Only this time seems different, more extensive. Locals say it's the largest wave of bovine butchery since the 1970s, when 62 mutilations occurred in this area of Montana. And they're getting frustrated.
Ruby Bouma knows about this frustration firsthand. She and her husband, Glen, found their 9-month-old steer calf sliced up Nov. 1. Puzzled by its death, they're almost equally confused by the aftermath.
"When an animal dies, a predator, whether it be a coyote, wolf, whatever, they will chew into the animal and make a large enough hole so they can start eating into the flesh," Ruby explains. "... Nothing had eaten on this animal (almost two months after it was killed). "If you lose a calf you just take it back in the pasture and the predators will take care of it. ... In the mutilated ones, these wild animals won't do that. Why? I don't know. How are they dying? I don't know." She's certainly not alone in her confusion.
That's where the National Institute for Discovery Science comes in. Last June, the institute acquired its first sample from one of the mutilated Montana animals. "It interested us because underneath the left jaw, under the bone, was an area of what investigators described as green tissue, in contrast to the remaining tissue, which was the usual pink," says NIDS Deputy Director Colm Kelleher.
The head was shipped to NIDS, where a battery of tests was performed. NIDS also acquired a dead cow from a slaughterhouse to use as a control in the experiment. They allowed the cow to decompose under natural conditions for four days, protected from scavengers. Samples were taken and compared to the mutilated cow, and a surprising difference was found. A substance called oxindole was found in the mutilated cow but not in the control sample. "Oxindole has, at the kinds of concentration we found it in, been used as an experimental sedative," explains Kelleher. "It could have been used to drug the animal prior to or during the mutilation. We haven't nailed that down but that's one of the uses of oxindole."
So they've found a starting point, which comes as small relief to Pondera County folk. Only time will tell whether their discovery is significant; that is, if oxindole is found consistently in other mutilated cattle. And that, of course, depends on the mutilator striking again. The townsfolk know this and, at least for Ruby, the prospect is frightening. "What will be next?" Ruby ponders. "Why haven't these people, or whoever's doing this, why haven't they done horses or sheep? Why haven't they done other kinds of animal? And if it gets to (mutilating) people, then we really need to get it under control. The most scary part is the unknowing. When you don't know any answers, that's what's weird."