Cattle mutilations so common ranchers rarely report new cases


Unexplained cattle mutilations have baffled ranchers and law enforcement for years. Explanations offered include cults, predators and some otherworldly possibilities. Investigative reporter George Knapp visits Lander County, the site of some mutilations, which is about 370 miles north of Las Vegas. Aired in February 2000 on KLAS TV in Las Vegas.

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% of ranchers bury the animals and don’t tell anyone.

An official with the Lander County Sheriff’s Office said it is happening so frequently that ranchers have stopped reporting the incidents.

The official said the sheriff’s office has had at least seven calls, all from one ranch. No other ranch in the county has been victimized. That doesn’t make sense, the official said.

The carcass of a cow lies in a field in rural Nevada. (KLAS-TV)

One of the strangest cases of all occurred last fall in nearby Utah at 11 a.m. A farmer had just tagged the ear of a newborn calf, walked over a hill for a matter of minutes, heard a noise and returned to find the calf completely stripped of flesh. Cut, as if with a scalpel.

“It was a perfectly, cleanly done removal of about 60% of the body weight of the animal in about 45 minutes in broad daylight,” said Colm Kelleher of the National Institute for Discovery Science based in Las Vegas.

Colm Kelleher of the National Institute for Discovery Science. (KLAS-TV)

The institute has teams of investigators it will dispatch 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 it’s been suggested elsewhere.

“We went through large numbers of possible scenarios of how a cult could have done that,” Kelleher said. “Leaving no tracks, approaching the animal, disabling the mother, removing this removing the actual calf to another location because it was no sign of blood right on the spot where it was left, completely denuding the calf of flesh and blood, taking the carcass back to the spot where it was originally tagged … all in 45 minutes.

“We find that kind of logistics difficult to comprehend,” Kelleher said.

Could the government be doing some environmental monitoring, or perhaps big industry?

The sheriff’s office official asked, “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 Austin, Nevada. 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 a lot more questions than answers.

“It’s hard to visualize or even comprehend why someone would drive up and kill an animal and then take the male parts out,” Lamb said. “I don’t know. It’s beyond me. I never just, it’s beyond me to understand it.”

Floyd Lamb works on his ranch. (KLAS-TV)

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