A bull that has not been mutilated. Photo: Garrett Thurman / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeE
This summer, some spooky shit occurred in eastern Oregon: Per NPR, five breeding bulls showed up dead on a ranch, with every drop of blood sucked from their body, and with their tongue and genitals surgically removed. The mutilated bulls looked like “giant, deflated plush [toys]” according to the report, which frames the deaths as “eerie” and “mysterious.” But the culprit behind the murders couldn’t be more obvious: It’s aliens.
And the county law enforcement investigating the murders undeniablyknows this. According to NPR, Harney County sheriff’s deputy Dan Jenkins has ruled out that “bears, wolves, cougars, or poisonous plants” were involved in bulls’ demise; he also noted that the animals were not shot. In fact, Jenkins even acknowledged the alien theory — and he didn’t deny it.
“A lot of people lean toward the aliens,” he told NPR. “One caller had told us to look for basically a depression under the carcass. ‘Cause he said that the alien ships will kinda beam the cow up and do whatever they are going to do with it. Then they just drop them from a great height.”
Understandably, this theory might be unsettling or even incomprehensible to alien skeptics or deniers, but there’s really no other explanation. While the murdered bulls were pricey — $6,000 each, to be exact — why would a human only want their blood, genitals, and tongues? Furthermore, the report points to other incidents of dead cows turning up bloodless, one of which dates back to the 1980s. So unless there’s some deranged guy out there who’s been mutilating bulls for nearly four decades, it sure seems like a single human is not to blame.
If all of that’s not convincing enough, consider this additional piece of information: The FBI won’t confirm or deny whether it is looking into the deflated bulls. Interesting!
Running cows in the shadow of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front isn’t for the faint of heart. Droughts, floods, winds so strong they’ll knock you off your horse, erratic cattle prices, and a gang of predators eager to make a meal out of any calf that crosses their path: all that is a normal part of ranching on the Rocky Mountain Front.
Pat ‘Judge’ Hall has lived there for 64 years. His ranch, Blacktail Angus, stands just north of Birch Creek on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Four generations of Halls have made their living running cows on the Rocky Mountain Front, but none of them ever saw a September storm quite like the one that blew in last Friday.
“Where I live, we got close to four foot of snow on the level,” Hall said. “The snow banks are 10- to 12-feet deep. There’s no way I can get out of here with tractors or anything like that. It’s flat tough.”
Strong winds and heavy snow hit the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains late Friday evening. The worst of it centered on a narrow expanse stretching from the Canadian border south to Augusta. By Monday afternoon the Blackfeet Indian Reservation’s largest community, Browning, had 48 inches of snow piled up, breaking a record for September storms set in 1908.
Once the snow stopped and the winds died down, Blackfeet officials had a chance to evaluate the situation. What they found was disheartening.
“We have a lot of displaced livestock and many fences covered by snow,” said Terry Tatsey of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council. “Many parts of Blackfeet Country were heavily affected by the snow accumulation. Many ranchers are searching for their cattle as the snow recedes. We have many ranchers who will need hay.”
Just a few miles east, the conditions were far more tolerable. The city of Cut Bank, just 33 miles away, received less than a third of Browning’s total snow accumulation.
“My brother lives west of Cut Bank about 10- or 12-miles,” Hall said. “He called me on Saturday to see how things were over here. That’s when we were still piling up. He said, ‘We’ve got about six inches’.
Farmers and ranchers across northcentral Montana had ample warning that a major winter storm was was about to hit, but few fully appreciated its impending severity. Adding to their troubles was widespread delays getting winter feed. A cool, wet summer slowed maturation of the area’s hay crop. Ranchers used to having their stack yards filled before Labor Day stared nervously as the empty yards filled with snow.
“We knew the storm was coming, but there was no way I could have got up there within a day and got my cattle moved down,” Hall said of his herd grazing on the flanks of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. “It really wouldn’t have done much good for me anyway, because I wouldn’t have been able to feed them.”
“Normally by the end of August I’ve got all my hay bought and moved in,” he explained, “but the hay producer I buy mine from, he didn’t get his second crop until right about the middle of September. About the time I got ready to move that, this storm hit. I do have some feed on hand, but nothing compared to what I’d have in a normal year. Everybody else is pretty much in the same situation here.”
As noted before, ranchers by nature are a pretty hardy lot. It’s unlikely that any family stalwart enough to survive 80-plus years on the Front would be defeated by a single storm. Much the same can be said for their livestock.
“They’re pretty hardy animals, and they’re not as dumb as people think they are,” Hall said of his cattle. “They’re going find a place where there’s good shelter to keep out of the wind.”
No matter how resilient they are, Montana ranchers on the Rocky Mountain Front can’t help but worry that some percentage of their herds may have succumbed to the snow and cold; and the impact it may have on calf weights. October is when the largest percentage of cow/calf operations sell the bulk of their animals.
A quarter horse ponders leaving its stall on the Hall Ranch near Heart Butte
“I’m hoping that within a week or so, if it warms up, it will be thawed up enough to where we can maybe start looking for them,” Hall said of his cattle herd. “I’ve supposedly got a bunch of cattle up there, but I’m thinking with this snow, they’re probably making their way down. They might be half way to Dupuyer by now.”
The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council has offered the following information to ranchers concerned about livestock losses due to the past week’s storm.
“Ranchers need to remember if they have livestock losses, to document those losses through photos that are timestamped. People and organizations interested in donating hay can contact the MSU Extension office for the Tribe, Verna Billedeaux or the Tribe’s ARMP department, Will Seeley. You can call (406) 338-7521 ext 2370. We will make information available as it becomes available.”
–Reprinted with permission from the Great Falls Tribune
The rollover crash near Butte of a semi truck hauling cattle has prompted the animal rights group People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to work toward putting up a billboard near the crash site.
“Our billboard reminds everyone that cows are intelligent, sensitive individuals who can feel pain and don’t want to die whether that’s on the road or at the slaughter house,” said PETA representative Emily Raap from Virginia.
No people were injured in the rollover that happened at the Interstate 15-90 interchange on September 18th, but one of the 36 cows being hauled was killed.
PETA wants to promote a vegan diet with a billboard.
“Eating meat is completely unnecessary and that raising animals to be slaughtered means a lifetime of abuse and torment for the animals followed by a violent and painful death,” said Raap.
Some people believe that putting a billboard up is just exploiting an unfortunate accident.
Craig Schuett, who works for Excelsior Meats in Butte, said, “I think they’re just taking advantage a little bit of an accident, and accidents happen, people get in more car wrecks than cows do and get hurt.”
And even when PETA puts up the billboard, people in the meat industry don’t think the sign will have much impact on people in Montana who really like their meat.
“We’re a state of rancher, hunters, we like meat, we get a majority of our income derived from ranching, farming industry,” said Schuett.
PETA doesn’t know when the billboard will go up, but wants it near the crash site along I-15.
Outside of Pendleton, Oregon, Terry Anderson’s cattle have messed up his irrigation spigots. Again.
The cows knock them down pretty much daily, and he has to fix ‘em. He jumps out of his side-by-side vehicle and deftly rights them again or screws on a new spigot if they’re really bad.
“Cows just rub on stuff for the heck of it,” Terry Anderson says with a smile. “They love to scratch.”
Not One Drop Of Blood
Right now in remote eastern Oregon, a serial crime spree is unfolding. Young purebred bulls are mysteriously showing up dead. Cowboys recently found several animals with body parts precisely removed — and it’s happened just like this before in the West.
It happened to Anderson back in the 1980s, when one of the rancher’s mother cows was mysteriously killed overnight. From his homeplace, Anderson points to the exact spot where he found her on top of a mountain. He’s never gotten over it.
As he remembers, Anderson says he had just been near the spot the night before. The next morning, his cow was laid over and dead, her udder removed with something razor sharp.
“And not one drop of blood anywhere,” Anderson says.
Everything You Do Leaves Tracks
Over 200 miles away — outside Princeton, Oregon — Andie Davies is canning green chili peppers in her remote ranch kitchen. The air smells spicy, warm. She wipes her strong, working hands before giving a shake.
Another cut up and bloodless cow was found two years ago a mile from her homeplace. A hunter discovered the carcass near a water trough, just hours after the kill.
Her son, a butcher at the time, inspected the slain animal. He couldn’t understand how the cuts were made so clean.
Davies says she and her husband rode strategic circles around the area with four wheelers to try and find vehicle tracks, horse tracks, something. They never found any. And in this country, “everything you do leaves tracks,” Davies says.
Silvies Valley Ranch
Over an hour away, north of Burns, cowboys whistle and talk low to eager cattle dogs.
Dust from hooves, both cloven and shod, creates a fog in the early light. As they gather the cow-calf pairs out of a large draw, the animals call to each other.
Silvies Valley Ranch is nearly the size of Chicago. This summer, five young purebred bulls were cut down in their prime. Colby Marshall, is the vice president of the ranch.
To understand better, we rattle up a two-track U.S. Forest Service road.
“And we’re gonna drive in here,” Marshall says, “oh a little ways and then we’ll get out and take a little walk to where one the bulls was found. And the carcass is still there.”
These animals were found bloodless, with their tongues and genitals precisely removed.
Coming upon one of the dead bulls is an eerie scene. The forest is hot and still, apart from a raven’s repeating caw. The bull looks like a deflated plush toy. It smells. Weirdly, there are no signs of buzzards, coyotes or other scavengers. His red coat is as shiny as if he was going to the fair.
Marshall says these young animals were just reaching their top value as breeding bulls. Now the animals worth as much as $7,000 each, and their collective future progeny worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, are lost.
Finding these rangey young Hereford bulls in this remote country can sometimes take the ranch’s experienced cowboys days. Marshall suspects a coordinated effort.
“It’s rugged,” Marshall says. “I mean this is the frontier. … If some person, or persons, has the ability to take down a 2,000-pound range bull, you know, it’s not inconceivable that they wouldn’t have a lot of problems dealing with a 180-pound cowboy.”
Staff are now required to ride in pairs, and encouraged to carry arms.
Alien (And Other) Theories
In Burns, Dan Jenkins is a deputy with the Harney County Sheriff’s Office. Jenkins has been working the cattle cases, and gotten calls from all over.
“A lot of people lean toward the aliens,” Jenkins says. “One caller had told us to look for basically a depression under the carcass. ‘Cause he said that the alien ships will kinda beam the cow up and do whatever they are going to do with it. Then they just drop them from a great height.”
Jenkins says the cases have been tough, with little evidence and no credible leads. He personally inspected four of the animals. He has a running list on his white board scrawled with green marker with the top theories.
“Another one told us we should run like a geiger counter type thing around the animal and guarantees that there would be radiation there,” Jenkins says. “And the number one on the list there, he thinks it’s the North Vietnamese army.”
Whatever or whoever the cause, what’s clear is it isn’t bears, wolves, cougars or poisonous plants. Nor were the animals shot.
The FBI won’t confirm or deny it’s looking into the killings.
Little Time To Dwell
Back on bull-breeder Terry Anderson’s spread near Pendleton, he’s got his solid-set sprinklers running now.
The spigots hiss and sputter, then click, click.
What happened to his mother cow decades ago, and these new cases, leaves him with an uneasy feeling.
“But you just go on,” Anderson says. “‘Cause the next day has a lot of projects to get done, too.”
Last week the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) called on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to “convene cattle market participants to discuss concerns related to price transparency and true price discovery.”
USCA sent letters to both Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and CFTC Chairman Heath P. Tarbert, seeking the transparency summits in response to the untimely fire at the Tyson Foods’ Holcomb, Kan., beef plant.
In a statement, USCA said, “In the weeks following the event, U.S. cattle producers have witnessed unprecedented disruption in the cattle marketplace. Two separate Cattle Industry Summits would directly address issues related to the Mandatory Price reporting program, Packers & Stockyards Act violations and definitions, and the cattle futures contracts. USCA looks forward to working with both USDA and CFTC to convene cattle industry stakeholders in the months ahead.”
On Wednesday (Aug. 28, 2019) Secretary Perdue announced he had directed USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division to launch an “investigation into recent beef pricing margins to determine if there is any evidence of price manipulation, collusion, restrictions of competition or other unfair practices.”
Perdue’s request comes as part of USDA’s “continued efforts to monitor the impact of the fire at the beef processing facility in Holcomb, Kan. If any unfair practices are detected, we will take quick enforcement action. USDA remains in close communication with plant management and other stakeholders to understand the fire’s impact to industry,” the statement from Perdue said.
Perdue Launches P&S Investigation After Tyson Fire
(Adds comments from Tyson, industry groups, background)
By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, Aug 28 (Reuters) – U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue ordered an investigation into widening prices between cattle and beef on Wednesday after a recent fire at a Tyson Foods Inc slaughterhouse in Holcomb, Kansas, shut the plant.
Cattle prices have tanked because the fire temporarily eliminated a key buyer of livestock. Farmers have worried that meat packers such as Tyson, Cargill Inc and JBS USA would take advantage of the situation by dropping their offering prices.
At the same time, beef prices climbed as buyers for restaurants, food service companies and grocery chains scrambled for meat.
Profit margins for the packers are above $400 per head of cattle slaughtered, up from around $150 before the fire and well above the previous record of $308, according to Denver-based livestock marketing advisory service HedgersEdge.com.
The USDA will investigate whether there is evidence of price manipulation, collusion or other unfair practices, according to a statement.
“If any unfair practices are detected, we will take quick enforcement action,” Perdue said.
Tyson said it would cooperate with the investigation. The company resumed some limited work at the plant this week, but it will take a few months to repair damage to the roof and equipment inside, according to a statement.
Cargill and JBS did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The North American Meat Institute, an industry group that represents meat companies, said packers acted properly after the fire disrupted beef production.
But the USDA’s investigation “demonstrates the government’s understanding of the extreme strain placed on the cattle industry by the plant fire,” said Jennifer Houston, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
A small number of large packers dominate the U.S. beef sector, which has fueled complaints among some farmers about the power of the companies over cattle and beef prices.
The USDA is responding to those concerns with its probe, said Derrell Peel, agricultural economist at Oklahoma State University.
“I don’t think they have a choice but to launch an investigation given the backlash out in the country,” he said.
Still, the beef and cattle markets seemed to act appropriately given the sudden disruption from the fire, Peel said. The plant killed about 6,000 cattle a day, or 5% of the total U.S. slaughter, prior to the fire.
“Markets don’t like shocks and so when you get a shock like that, markets take very dramatic actions,” Peel said. (Reporting by Tom Polansek Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Sonya Hepinstall and Tom Brown)
When the first dead bull turned up at the end of July, it didn’t raise an alarm at the Silvies Valley Ranch.
Cattle sometimes die suddenly on the ranch’s 140,000 acres in Harney County — struck by disease or felled by a broken leg and unable to find a way out of the rugged, forested terrain.
But by the time ranch hands discovered four more dead bulls within 24 hours, they knew they were likely dealing with deliberate, premeditated killings.
They’re still baffled by the circumstances. There were no wounds. No signs of a struggle. And the bulls’ genitals and tongues had been carefully removed.
The killing and mutilation of the 4 and 5-year-old Hereford bulls in the prime of their productive lives has since spurred a multi-agency investigation in eastern Oregon, but detectives have turned up no leads and haven’t yet even settled on a cause of death.
“How somebody put these bulls on the ground at what would be arguably a fairly close range — and to do it in a way that didn’t leave any signs, no trace evidence, no footprints, no struggle marks from the animal, no broken limbs — I have no idea,” said Colby Marshall, vice president of the Silvies Valley Ranch.
The mystery deepens because there’s no obvious reason someone would want those animal parts. They aren’t prime targets for black market sales, authorities said.
The deaths are eerily similar to a rash of livestock killings and mutilations across the West in the 1970s, when hundreds of cows and bulls turned up dead, also of seemingly unknown causes and with their genitals and tongues missing.
Back then, theories ran the gamut from a government conspiracy and UFOs to natural deaths and scavengers. Today, the circumstances at Silvies Valley Ranch point to humans as the probable culprits because of the precise cuts on the bulls.
Anything else for now is speculation, including ideas of what might have killed a bull without leaving marks. Marshall said he wonders if the killer used poison darts.
“We think that these are very sick and dangerous individuals and they need to answer for this horrible crime,” he said.
Silvies Valley Ranch, about 40 minutes north of the county seat of Burns, has put up a $25,000 reward for information on the bull killings that leads to an arrest and conviction, and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has offered its own $1,000 reward.
The investigation has pulled in Oregon State Police as well as the U.S. Forest Service because the cattle were grazing on a federal allotment in the Malheur National Forest.
The ranch is owned by veterinarian Scott Campbell, who bought the enterprise in 2006. Since then, it’s expanded into tourism with a golf course and resort on site, but still maintains around 4,500 head of beef cattle, including around 100 bulls.
The five dead bulls were found on July 30 and 31, in a wooded area about 15 miles from U.S. 395, the nearest major road. They were each about a quarter mile apart, Marshall said. There is some official disagreement on when they were killed — the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, which saw only four of the bulls, puts the deaths at three to 14 days before discovery, but Marshall believes the cattle were discovered within 24 to 48 hours of their deaths.
The delay in finding the animals is not unusual in such a remote area, where ranchers are tasked with patrolling large tracts of land, said Jerome Rosa, executive director of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. Harney County is Oregon’s largest county, covering more than 10,000 square miles where cattle outnumber people 14-to-1.
“These are huge, vast, steep landscapes with lots of rock and trees and brush,” Rosa said. “Ranchers may not see their cattle for long stretches of time.”
Beef is Oregon’s largest agricultural commodity, drawing in nearly $1 billion a year – and most cattle crimes typically involve theft, Rosa said.
This makes the deaths at Silvies Valley Ranch particularly bizarre, he said, because the bulls were worth a lot of money alive, particularly for breeding.
Marshall estimated their value at up to $7,000 apiece and said they would have sired at least 100 calves each over the remainder of their lives.
“Their productive life was a huge economic opportunity for the ranch, and now that’s completely lost,” he said. “We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Marshall has heard from several other Oregon ranchers who reported similar killings on their property over the past few decades — including cows that had been found with their udders, vulvas and tongues removed.
One of these ranchers, Terry Anderson, found a dead cow on land he was renting near Pendleton in 1980. Its udder had been cleanly removed and Anderson could see no clear evidence of what had killed the animal.
“There was no visible bullet hole or anything there,” Anderson recalled this week. “It was so unusual. It just left you with an eerie feeling.”
The hundreds of cattle deaths in the 1970s — largely concentrated in the Midwest — caused a media sensation as ranchers roiled by an economic crisis blamed a government conspiracy, according to Michael Goleman, a history professor at Somerset Community College in Kentucky who researched the phenomenon.
Because the killings were scattered across different states, investigators reached no overarching conclusion on the cause of the deaths, but Goleman said some people believed the government was conducting weapons tests on the cattle.
Facing pressure from ranchers, the FBI opened an investigation in 1979 into the deaths of 15 cattle in New Mexico, ultimately concluding that there was no evidence of intentional mutilation by humans and the animals had likely died of natural causes.
Since then, scattered reports have made headlines, including the discovery of several mutilated cows in Kansas in 2016 and five cows in 1990 that had been killed and dissected on a farm in Washington. Goleman said conspiracy theorists have pinned the blame on everything from satanic cults to aliens.
But Silvies Valley Ranch isn’t placing its bets on paranormal activity, though Harney County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Jenkins said he’s gotten a few suggestions that Sasquatch may be responsible. He’s received around 20 calls from around the western U.S. since news about the deaths started spreading.
Jenkins, the lead investigator on the case, said the lack of physical evidence at the crime sites — no footprints, no tire or ATV tracks — means authorities are relying on witnesses to call in to the tip line and report any suspicious activity they might have seen in the area.
David Bohnert, a professor at Oregon State University who studies beef cattle, said two things typically kill livestock: poisoning from eating toxic plants and people.
In this case, poisoning is unlikely, given the number of bulls involved and the plants in the area, he said. Larkspur typically flowers earlier in the year, while hemlock, another deadly plant, grows only around rivers and streams — not the dry forests where the bulls were found.
Plus, the fact that all five cattle killed were bulls, Bohnert said, is statistically unlikely to occur in nature — they make up only about 4% to 6% of a herd.
That leaves human activity as the most likely cause, he said. Adding to the evidence is the surgical precision with which the genitals and tongues were removed. Scavengers would leave obvious signs of tearing with teeth, claws or beaks, he said.
Bohnert said he has heard rumors of bull testicles being considered an aphrodisiac, and both tongues and genitals can be eaten — the famous “Rocky Mountain Oysters” come to mind. But he could think of no reason why someone couldn’t just legally buy the animal parts.
Yet the human explanation comes with its own difficulties.
Taking down a 2,000-pound bull is no easy feat, and Marshall said there were no signs of a struggle — the bulls were all lying on their sides as if they had just fallen over and died.
He said he could only think that some kind of toxic dart might kill a bull from a distance. But he has no proof of it and may never find it. It’s not clear if a dart would leave a detectable imprint.
In the meantime, tissue samples taken from the carcasses are still being analyzed for toxins and no results are available yet, Marshall said. Even with the tests, the killings may remain an enigma. The bulls had been left to decompose for several days, making a toxicology screen difficult to do, he said.
Until a suspect is found, ranch employees are on high alert, particularly those who patrol vast areas alone on ATV or on horseback.
Rosa said the news had also concerned other ranchers — but that greater awareness could also lead to faster answers in the tight-knit ranching community.
“The neighbors and the folks that are in those areas know each other,” Rosa said. “And when there’s someone strange or different that’s out and about, they take notice of that, and they let each other know.”
New research led by academics in the veterinary and medical schools at the University of Bristol in the U.K. used the “One Health” approach to study three bacterial species in the noses of young cattle and found that the carriage of the bacteria was surprisingly different.
The findings — combined ideas and methods from both animal and human health research — could help prevent and control respiratory diseases, the announcement said.
Cattle, like people, harbor a wide range of bacteria in their noses: microbes that are normally present and probably necessary for health, like those that live in the gut, the researchers said. However, some species of these bacteria do cause serious illness at times, particularly when infection becomes established in the lower respiratory tract within the lungs.
In an open-access paper published Aug. 16 in Scientific Reports, the researchers investigated the patterns of acquiring and clearing these microbes in healthy young cattle, which have not previously been studied in detail.
The research team took nasal swabs at intervals during the first year of life to detect the presence and measure the abundance of microbes using a DNA-detection technique called quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) that targeted genes found in three bacterial species well known for their ability to cause respiratory disease in cattle: Histophilus somni, Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida.
The researchers found that the carriage patterns of the three bacteria differed remarkably, the university said.
According to the researchers:
Pasteurella was found in most of the animals — usually in large numbers — and the bacteria stayed in the nose for weeks or months.
Histophilus was present in up to half the animals — usually in smaller numbers — and the periods it was present were shorter.
Mannheimia was rarely found, although the numbers detected, when present, varied widely.
These differences are of interest because the numbers of bacteria and their duration of carriage are likely to influence their spread among healthy cattle and the likelihood of causing severe respiratory disease, the researchers said.
“These techniques and results offer a way forward in understanding why and how apparently healthy cattle harboring these bacteria may go on to develop respiratory illness and should help in finding new ways to prevent it,” said Amy Thomas, lead author who carried out the research as part of her doctoral studies in clinical veterinary science at the University of Bristol.
Professor Mark Eisler, co-author and chair in Global Farm Animal Health at the Bristol Vet School, added, “These studies are particularly important because cattle are known to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and improving how their diseases are controlled will help mitigate climate change. Also, reducing the use of antimicrobials that treat respiratory diseases in cattle should help reduce the increasing global threat of antimicrobial resistance in animals and humans.”