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Animal Mutilations: What We Don't Know From: Eustaquio Anddrea Patounas <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 22:58:49 -0300 Fwd Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 07:09:12 -0400 Subject: Animal Mutilations: What We Don't Know
Source: National Institute for Discovery Science
October 09, 2000
Animal Mutilations: What We Don't Know
George E. Onet, D.V.M., Ph. D.
For over thirty years, ranchers, veterinarians and official investigators have been searching for explanations for animal mutilation cases. Local authorities, FBI, Bureaus of Special Investigators, and ad-hoc committees have conducted intense investigations to gain more understanding about these phenomena. Unfortunately, the results of these investigations did not provide the public with solid answers to their questions. Ranchers continued to feel helpless, confused, and frustrated, while their resulting economic losses caused serious concerns. In 1975, Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm called animal mutilations "one of the greatest outrage in the history of western cattle industry." (1)
Scientists involved with researching animal mutilations have attempted to provide logical explanations, and in some cases, these explanations were contradicted by the evidence gathered by police investigators. Generally, scientists attributed mutilations to commonly accepted factors such as natural causes, predators, and scavengers. These explanations have caused dissatisfaction among ranchers and some investigators.
Although some official investigators had been around livestock all their lives, they stated that they have never seen the characteristics that are now attributed to animal mutilation. They concluded that at least a part of the animal mutilations were "definitely not made by predators." (1) Sometimes, investigators were puzzled by their findings. Even today, some animal mutilation cases are simply classified as unexplainable. (2)
The investigation of animal mutilations and the peculiar circumstances in which they occur require gathering of physical evidence immediately after the event, but this is not always possible. Published data on animal mutilations have been used to establish patterns. (3,4,5,6,7,8)
Those who decide to study the subject are still faced with several crucial unanswered questions. Some of the most significant are:
What causes the death of animals that are found mutilated? Some evidence suggests that the mutilation takes place after the animal has died. Otherwise, the body and the surrounding areas would be stained with a great deal of blood because if the animal were alive, the heart would continue to pump blood through the open vessels. Reports reveal that compared to the severity of the wounds, blood traces are scarce.
Natural causes of death in animals include: infectious diseases, severe accidents, poisoning, bloat, birth-related accidents, predators, electrocution, etc. which can be diagnosed through macroscopic examination and laboratory analyses. In most mutilation cases, it has been reported that animals died suddenly. This is based on the testimony that they were seen by the owner in good health and body condition shortly before being found dead.
If predators caused the death, teeth marks would be found around the hocks and the nose because those areas are usually attacked first. Tissues would be torn, arteries and veins would be open and bleeding would take place which would be easy to see. Especially during the winter season, blood traces are easily detected on snow covered terrain. In other seasons, the soil and vegetation in the vicinity of the carcass would show tracks, hoof prints, and/or signs of ante-mortem strugglesigns which are difficult to miss.
During an investigation, authorities will conduct a thorough examination of the mutilated body and the surrounding areas using more or less standard procedures. Their findings are documented in legal reports. If no signs of predator attack or ante-mortem struggle are revealed, then the question is: how did the animal(s) die? One answer is natural causes, but if natural causes were not evident, the animals may have been euthanized somehow and mutilated later. What could have silently killed them without leaving any traces on the body and in the inflicted tissues?
Regardless of the cause of death, normally there is an agony phase during which the animals display contractions in different parts of the body, especially in the legs and in the neck muscles. Pedaling, for instance, will cause tracks on the soil which would be noticeable. If tracks are not present, then the animal(s) probably died instantly without going through the agony phase. Possible causes of an instant death are lightning, gun-shots or paralyzing factors. Weather conditions, characteristic lesions on the body, and signs in the surrounding area can confirm or exclude the possibility of lightning. Gun- shots can be easily detected through a thorough necropsy. Paralyzing factors are more difficult to identify. However, a laboratory examination would have a good chance to clarify such a suspicion. If none of these possibilities exist, what else could be responsible for the death?
Special attention should be paid to situations when more than one animal is found dead under similar circumstances. When three or four animals are found in the same position, as if they were walking in the same direction, or when the position of their legs suggests that they were running, then the question remains what caused the sudden death?
Some reports have mentioned that mutilated animals were found laying in the middle of perfectly round areas where the vegetation looked as if it had been burned. What could have caused this strange occurrence? Other reports mention that large allegedly mutilated animals (cows, steers) had all four legs fractured with no plausible explanation. If one or two legs had been broken, it could be easier to understand.
According to a recent report (private communication, Dec. 1996), issued by the Criminal Investigations Division in Fort Pierce, Florida, tissue and blood samples from a mutilated animal were submitted to a state diagnostic laboratory. By using gas chromatography, they found three unusual compounds in the liver and the aortic blood: Furaltadone (an antibacterial compound), Oxipronolol acetate (a beta blocker), and Amfetaminil (a psychotropic drug).(9) How did these chemicals get into the blood stream when the necropsy report did not mention signs of intravenous injection? Their presence suggests, however, human intervention.
What is the logical explanation for the missing body parts and the way in which they were removed? The most plausible interpretation which has been reflected in veterinary reports is that animal mutilations are the work of scavengers. The kind of tissues removed suggests a preference for soft easily accessible body parts (teats, udder, tongue, external genitalia, ears, etc.). In such situations, it is likely that the animals died of natural causes and were scavenged afterwards. However, scavengers do not kill animals.
A strange feature in animal mutilation reports is the apparent precision by which the tissues were cut. Examination of the remaining tissues gave investigators the strong impression that they were cut with surgical precision. However, how this was performed could not be established with certainty. In some instances, the edges of the remaining skin looked so regularly serrated that it could not be caused by a predators bite or tearing.(8) For example, portions of 20-25 cm skin edges were straight and regularly serrated, which suggests the use of an instrument. What kind of surgical instruments could have been used to leave this kind of cut?
In some cases, it was suspected that laser beams were used.(7,8) However, with currently available laser technology, cutting a 3- 5 mm thick cow hide would require equipment weighing several thousand pounds. How could that equipment have been deployed and used in usually remote areas without being seen or leaving tracks in the surrounding environment?
Is the blood in the mutilated animals indeed missing? Some reports have stated that blood was missing from the body or was only present in small amounts. In 1971, an Idaho veterinarian necropsied a purportedly mutilated horse and found that all internal organs, including the heart and the lungs, had been completely desiccated.(8) At necropsy, by compressing parenchymal tissues such as liver, lung, and kidney, one would expect that a certain amount of blood is expressed even if post- mortem coagulation or hemolysis had occurred. This is true under normal conditions when animals die without being exsanguinated. If massive ante-mortem bleeding had taken place, these organs would appear pale and the amount of blood obtained by compression is significantly reduced. But if there is no indication of extensive internal or external hemorrhage which is capable of draining blood from the circulatory system, then the lack of blood looks peculiar.
The main task would be to establish whether the blood was removed by artificial means. A thorough examination of the central and peripheral circulatory system, including the heavily vascularized tissues, should establish the correlation between the macroscopic aspect of the tissues and the microscopic images, which give more detailed information on the status of the capillary vessels and their blood load.
What are the morphological changes in the tissues from mutilated animals? In some cases, tissue samples were examined in well- established diagnostic laboratories. Histology performed on over thirty skin samples from the excision lines by Dr. Altshuller, a Colorado pathologist, revealed lesions suggesting overheating. Although there were no data on the degree of autolysis of the samples, collagen and hemoglobin were significantly changed in the proximity of the excision. (7,8)
In a 1991 report, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory of Corvallis (Oregon State University) determined that skin sections from a suspected mutilated steer showed lesions consistent with electro-surgical excision.(10)
Another element that could bring a better understanding of these kinds of processes is the bacterial load of tissues. Post-mortem decomposition usually involves a variety of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria which cause tissues to decay. Compared to the surface of the affected skin, where numerous bacteria can be identified in the areas of coagulation necrosis, there is no such bacterial population. What could have caused such morphological skin changes? Only further systematic histological and molecular biology examinations, to study intimate cellular and chemical changes, could give valid clues on how these lesions were inflicted.
What causes the domestic and wild animals in the vicinity of mutilated animals to behave strangely? Anecdotal reports from ranchers indicate that after an animal has been mutilated the rest of the herd behaves strangely and will keep their distance from the carcass for days. They look afraid and are in visible distress. A Utah rancher reported that the horse he was riding became very nervous when it saw a mutilated cow. The horse started to snort and would not go near the cow.
Wild animals, including predators, scavengers, and birds seem to display a similar reaction to mutilated carcasses. According to ranchers, mutilated animals will remain untouched even in areas where wild animals are commonly seen. On a Utah ranch, a carcass of an allegedly mutilated cow was in the same position with intact hide, except for the initial missing body parts, for over 9 months. The animal was laying in a wooded area which was populated with coyotes and other predators.
Animals that die of natural causes do not seem to trigger the same type of reaction from other animals. On a recent trip to a Nevada ranch (Dec. 1996), a dead cow was found on a pasture close to the highway. The cause of death appeared to be distocia. Part of an oversized calf was engaged in the pelvic tract, but the birth could not be finalized. The exhausting efforts of the cow resulted in her death. The carcass was not removed for over ten days. Animals grazing in the immediate area were not bothered by the carcass.
What causes the disappearance of animals? The disappearance of animals can be attributed to a variety of causes such as rustling, running away, predator attacks, etc.
When animals are stolen, a legal investigation is usually initiated. In some cases, tracks or other clues lead to a firm conclusion that the animals were stolen even if perpetrators are not identified.
When animals run away, there are indicative signs such as broken fences and tracks. Later recovery of the animals is a chance to verify such situations.
When predators are the cause of animal disappearance, different tracks are left behind such as blood, hair, skin portions, body parts, foot prints, etc. In most cases, it is not difficult to come to a conclusive answer from these findings.
Reports of unusual animal disappearances have been filed with sheriffs departments and other investigators.(1) Certain cases were finally clarified, but there were situations in which no traces could be found and the cases remained unsolved. In the last couple of years, there have been some reports of disappearance of large numbers of animals under circumstances in which theft was ruled out by authorities.
Could individuals or cult organizations be involved with animal mutilations? Over the years, investigators have focused on the possibility of certain individuals or groups being involved with animal mutilations. Officials have even obtained confessions. However, the confessions came from imprisoned persons who were seeking lenient treatment. If satanic cults were involved, this would not explain the widespread and high incidence of mutilation cases throughout the years. In spite of all police, FBI, and other investigators efforts to gather solid evidence, no one has ever been arrested or convicted for such a crime.(1)
In order to answer these questions, thorough clinical, morpho- pathological and laboratory examinations need to be conducted. Only by carefully analyzing the results of such scientific research can pertinent conclusions be drawn. By looking for intimate changes in tissues from mutilated animals, down to cell and molecular levels, can valuable findings be correlated to help us define what in fact had happened to these animals. The first requirement to accomplish such a goal is to have necropsies performed as soon as possible after the animals death, and to have proper tissue samples collected for complex laboratory analyses. The second requirement is to perform an expanded array of tests when the animal tissue samples are in pristine condition. No matter what the outcome of an in-depth research on animal mutilations would be, economic losses and ranchers worries make searching for the answers to these questions perfectly justified.
An important conclusion from a recent National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) survey indicates that necropsies were never performed and samples were not collected for laboratory analysis on any of the reported animal mutilation cases. This suggests an urgent need for veterinarians involvement in investigating animal mutilations.
We hope that we will acquire more information on this matter with future endeavors. By expanding our inquiry, and with the help of bovine veterinary practitioners, we hope to have a broader picture of the facts as far as incidence, patterns and ways of investigating such cases are concerned. Unfortunately, there still lingers among veterinary practitioners the practice of choosing the most conventional explanations, even if no concrete evidence supports them. This tends to obscure the real circumstances and causes of animal mutilations. By preferring to follow commonly accepted diagnostics, veterinarians are inclined to simplify the process of justifying the cause of death and avoid being exposed to additional, sometimes unpleasant questioning.
Acknowledgment: Sincerest thanks to the President of NIDS, Mr. Robert T. Bigelow, for his steady support and to the NIDS staff for promptly reviewing and editing this material and for their valuable suggestions.
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