Cows Mutilated? Who Ya Gonna Call?
There's a town in middle America that just breathes "sleepy." With a population of about 6,400, the farming community of Conrad, Mont., has always been proud of its major annual activity: Whoop-Up Trail Days, a two-day rodeo event.
Then came the cattle mutilations.
And then the invitation for Las Vegas' National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) to help figure out what's going on. Suddenly, Conrad ain't so sleepy anymore.
Since mid-June, there have been four mysterious deaths, according to Pondera County Deputy Sheriff Dan Campbell. Two have been confirmed by the county, one lies in a different county, and the fourth remains unconfirmed. "There's not enough left to do anything with," he says of the mutilated carcass.
But the two that the county has confirmed shared many characteristics. "They're missing the left side of their faces, missing their tongues, part of the udder, and on one, all the tail-end section's gone. Pretty similar to the '70s," Campbell says, referring to a slew of killings that crossed five Montana counties and left more than 60 cows mutilated.
"Can you fax me the police report?" I ask.
"I would, if I'd written it up," he replies.
Ah, small towns. And so they called on the big city folk to step in. Where else, but Las Vegas?
NIDS to the rescue
The National Institute for Discovery Science was founded in 1995 by Robert Bigelow, a local UFO aficionado who owns the Budget Suites chain and started the Bigelow Consciousness Studies program, devoted to studying parapsychology, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The institute consists of scientists and retired cops who use the scientific method to explore such topics as UFOs, cattle mutilation, consciousness and other controversial topics.
It ain't always the most glamorous job in the world.
"The biggest drawback is getting to the animal in time to do forensic analysis," says Dr. Colm Kelleher, deputy administrator for NIDS. "It's not possible after three to four days sitting in 90-degree heat. The organs start to liquefy after 48 hours. That means the analysis becomes very suspect. If you start interpreting a five-day old animal, you start making very shaky interpretations."
Fortunately, the authorities in Montana called them within a reasonable amount of time, and samples were extracted for the institute.
"We're working on the tissues of one of the animals now. It's much too early to say anything," says Kelleher. But he goes into details of how the cow was found: "The cow that we're dealing with now, the left side of its jaw, tissue and hide, were gone. The tongue was partially removed, the left eye and ear are gone, the rear end removed, the reproductive and excretory apparatus were removed.
"Whoever's doing it is very organized and probably very well equipped. Some of the cuts have been very skillful, someone has a reasonable background in surgery."
History has shown that the fleshy parts removed from this particular cow are among the most common ones removed-but no one's actually figured out why. Kelleher admits that he hasn't.
"These are standard parts to remove. Nobody knows why. It's kind of a waste of time to speculate," he says. "The perpetrators know, but we certainly don't."
In the '70s, and even now, blame is often aimed at Satanic cults and ritual sacrifices. Kelleher doesn't buy that.
"One of the first things we did was investigate cult activity but were never able to nail it down," he says. "Traditional cults tend to use smaller animals like chicken and goats. Tackling a 2,000-pound bull is not the kind of things cults are known for."
Further adding to the mystery: In animal mutilations, there are usually no tracks and footprints, no evidence, and often little or no blood, Kelleher says. That leaves ample opportunity for people to speculate about aliens, government conspiracies, and, well, almost anything.
Speculation aside, Kelleher says there is a correlation between animal mutilations and UFO sightings. NIDS reported that from 1974 to 1977, in the area surrounding Montana's Malstrom Air Force Base, there were 62 animal mutilations, and investigations of 192 UFO and unknown helicopter sightings. The increase also corresponded with similar anomalous incidents occurring in 1975 at Loring Air Force Base in Maine; Wurdsmith Air Force Base in Michigan; Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota; and at the Canadian Air Force Base at Falconbridge, Ontario.
"We're not trying to add anything mysterious to this," Kelleher says. "The bottom line is we're not going to draw a cause and effect between UFOs and animal mutilation."
They'll leave that to the die-hard conspiracists and alien abductees.
Since Kelleher wouldn't elaborate about any perceived connection between the sightings and the mutilations, I took the question to Alan Gudaitis, director for Nevada's Mutual UFO Network Inc. (MUFON). Though he was unwilling to draw any connections between aliens and animal mutilation, he made it clear that whatever was going on wasn't natural-these weren't predators attacking the cattle. But like everyone else involved in this issue, Gudaitis just doesn't get it.
"I have no idea," he says. "First, we'd have to prove aliens existed. And then, would they do something like this?"
Don Emory, manager of Area 51 Research Center, a trailer out in Rachel, Nev., known for its research on military, UFO and aerospace topics, is also befuddled.
"Supposedly, that people start making the connection that this was alien mostly derives from farmers seeing strange lights in the field the night before," he says. "There's also the connection that maybe this wasn't alien, it was actually some kind of military testing."
Basically, Emory says, the correlation depends on your beliefs. "The UFO people think that its UFOs, conspiracy people think it's the government," he says. "Myself, I just don't know."