Cattle Mutilations - 8 News NOW
George Knapp's Street Talk
Led by Award-winning investigative reporter George Knapp, the Eyewitness News I-TEAM is the top television investigative unit in southern Nevada. Political expert Jon Ralston provides insight into local and state government, and former Mayor Jan Jones adds an insider's viewer of City Hall. I-TEAM photographer Eric Sorenson rounds out this first-class investigative unit.
Cattle mutilations have been recorded in all 50 states, but no one's ever been caught. Now they're happening in Nevada again, and no one seems to know why.
More than 10,000 of these mutilations have been reported on ranches all over the country. It’s a felony in many states, yet there's never been an arrest, yet alone a conviction. The mystery mutilators are back in action in northern Nevada, and lawmen there -- as elsewhere -- are completely stumped.
Nevada is still cattle country, with more than 500,000 head scattered over the vast rangelands of the state. Even in southern counties, it's not unusual to see scenes reminiscent of a John Ford western. But when the sun goes down, death comes calling.
Seven times in the past few years, someone or something has crept into the fields of this ranch near Battle Mountain and has carved up cattle with surgical precision.
Lander county lawmen are as baffled as their counterparts around the country. They have few clues, no motive and no suspects.
“It could be considered rustling, which is a felony," says Lander County Deputy Sgt. Keith Altemueller. "There’s no evidence I have of what happened, how it happened or who did it. There are no tracks, no sign of disturbance and generally no blood. The cuts are very sharp -- very unusual! I’ve lived in the desert all my life; I’ve seen what predators do. This is not what predators do.”
Former state Sen. Floyd Lamb has been ranching in nearby Lincoln County for most of his life. Twice his prize bulls have been taken, cut up and dumped by unknown perpetrators. Several of his neighbors have also been victimized.
“That's a crazy thing," Lamb says. "I don’t know what it is -- take a bull; cut him up; dissect him. I don’t understand that. Some kook.”
A kook who can immobilize large animals without making any noise, slice them up, drain them of blood, leave no tracks, then disappear. Nevada cases date back at least to the '70s.
Recent mutilations have occurred in neighboring Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. The parts taken include eyes, ears, sex organs and tongues. It isn’t being done for food.
Dr. Colm Kelleher, a mutilation investigator, says: “There’s no obvious indication its for food. The beef is never touched except on rare occasions.”
Kelleher works for the National Institute for Discovery Science based in Las Vegas, the only scientific organization in the country that is seriously pursuing the mutilation mystery. The institute invites ranchers to call and report mutilations. Teams are dispatched; samples are taken and analyzed. Answers though are hard to come by.
Kelleher says: “There hasn’t been a single person caught or charged in the 50 states where there have been reports -- no one charged; no one caught. You expect people to eventually make mistakes, drink in a bar and brag about what they’re doing. There is somebody out there, highly skilled in surgery, using sharp instruments doing animal mutilations.”
If it isn’t predators, then who? The suspects include the government or military, big industry, satanic cults. But there are problems with each scenario.
Cattle Mutilations Part II: Scientists Try To Solve the Mystery
A Las Vegas institute is taking the lead in investigating the mystery.
On ranches all over the country, baffled lawmen are faced with mysterious mutilations, cuts performed with surgical precision, leaving no blood in the animal or on the ground. Often they occur within yards of homes, and sometimes, in broad daylight. More than 10,000 cases have been reported from all 50 states, but up to 80 percent of ranchers bury the animals and don’t tell anyone.
Lander County Deputy Sgt. Keith Altemueller says: “Its happened so many times over so much time they assume there’s nothing we can do, and they don’t call us.”
The Lander County sheriff’s office has had seven or more calls, all from one ranch -- the only one in the county to be victimized. “Why isn’t it happening to other ranchers in the county?" Altemueller asks. "It doesn’t make sense to me.”
One of the strangest cases of all occurred last fall in nearby Utah at 11 in the morning. A farmer had just tagged the ear of a newborn calf, walked over a hill for a few minutes, heard a noise and returned to find the calf completely stripped of flesh, cut as if with a scalpel.
Dr. Colm Kelleher, a mutilation investigator, says: “It was perfectly cleanly done, the removal of 60 percent of the body weight of an animal in broad daylight.”
Kelleher works for NIDS, the National Institute for Discovery Science, based in Las Vegas. The institute has teams of investigators it dispatches to mutilation sites to investigate, collect samples, then analyze the samples at national labs. Tests prove that sharp instruments are used in the mutilations -- ruling out predators. But what about a satanic cult, as has been suggested in some states?
Kelleher says: ”We went through scenarios of how a cult could do that. No tracks, disable the mother, remove a calf to somewhere --no blood where it was left -- drain it of flesh and blood, take the carcass back and leave it in 45 minutes. That’s difficult to comprehend if it’s a random attack by a cult.”
Some of the cattle apparently have been dropped as if from the air. Odd chemicals, like a cauterizing agent, have been found in some cases. Could the government be doing environmental monitoring, or perhaps big industry?
Altemueller asks: “Why leave the carcasses where they can be found? Why not do your own clinical research?”
While researching this story, the I-Team found its own mutilation near the small Nevada town of Austin. It showed the classic signs but had been in the field too long to justify analysis. For ranchers like Floyd Lamb and investigators everywhere, there are lots more questions than answers.
Lamb says: “It’s hard to understand why anyone would drive up, kill an animal and take the male parts -- beyond me to understand it.”
Whoever is behind it must have their own airpower, because many of the most recent cases have occurred at the 10,000-foot level of New Mexico, in snow-covered mountains where it can be very tricky to fly. Even in cases where the animals are found mutilated in snow, there are no tracks to be found, even by professional trackers.