The mysterious case of unsolved cattle mutilations in Colorado

The mysterious case of unsolved cattle mutilations in Colorado

CultureJuly 11, 2018 By Will Brendza

The largest animal cruelty case in American history is happening in Colorado. It’s an ongoing situation. One that raises cosmic questions about our place in the universe.

Something is murdering cows in and around the San Luis Valley. And nobody knows how it’s happening, what is doing it, or why.

It’s a case almost as inexplicable as it is unbelievable; as strange as it is troublesome. The ranchers who discover their butchered cattle are baffled, and the police who investigate these bizarre scenes can only shrug and scratch their heads. Not even paranormal investigators, who have been studying these incidents for decades, can offer a definite explanation.

Because, these high-country bovines aren’t just being killed — they are being utterly mutilated: dismantled, dismembered, dissected with surgical precision, drained of blood, stripped of their organs, and discarded like empty banana peels.

The only thing that seems totally clear, is that these cows are not dying of natural causes.

Mike Duran is a rancher out of Trinidad, Colorado. The first time he discovered one of his cows mutilated was in 1996. He vividly recalls finding that cow, laying strangely in an irrigation ditch. “It was on its back with its legs up in the air," he says. "And what I noticed was they had removed all the teats, and this cow had horns and — those are very, very hard to take off — and they were maybe 20 or 30 feet from the cow, and her vaginal area was removed.

“That was the first time,” he says. “The sheriff at that time was like, ‘Oh it’s a predator,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah right,’  — if it’s a predator, he must have gone to Harvard Medical School.”

Duran says the cuts on these animals weren’t even knife-like, but more akin to a laser cutter, leaving extremely precise incisions and cauterizing the skin. The cow’s blood was completely drained, and scavengers — crows, magpies, and vultures — which would normally be all over a fresh cattle corpse, wouldn’t even come near the dead animal. For Duran, the experience was both traumatic and confusing.

Then, 13 years later, on a windy night in 2009, it happened again.

“[When I saw the cow] the first thing I said was, ‘They’re back,’” remembers Duran. He called the sheriff again, but this time, he also reached out to a number of paranormal experts. Duran wasn’t about to leave any stone unturned.

One of those experts was Chuck Zukowski, a local paranormal investigator, UFO-ologist and former reserve deputy in El Paso county. He took the mystery by its horns and started traveling the region investigating every cattle mutilation case he could get access to. And that year, there were at least eight of them.

“2009 was almost like a flood of events,” Zukowski says. “It’s almost as if there was a wave.”

After inspecting so many of these mutilations, Zukowski says he has noticed some disturbing commonalities between the incidents.

“The first thing you notice is that this animal is laying there and there’s absolutely no [indication of] movement," he says. "There’s no scuff marks. When an animal dies, it normally kicks and fights for its last few breaths — but not these animals.”

Even in those cases where the mutilated critter was discovered in mud or snow, Zukowski says there are never any tracks, blood spills, or other evidence that the animal was killed in the same location where its corpse is discovered. He believes the cows are picked up, transported, used, and then later returned, dead as doornails.

“The animal is picked up from location A, where it was, and it’s taken to a location B — wherever that is, that’s the unknown," he adds. "And the blood is removed, the incisions are made, and then it is taken to location C, which is in the proximity of location A.”

Zukowski likened it to someone stealing your car out of your driveway, removing all the fluids and the engine, and then returning what’s left simply because it’s registered in your name. “But yet they don’t understand they’re leaving you something that’s worthless ... You can’t drive the car.”

Zukowski has managed to deliver several of the corpses to researchers at Colorado State University. They ran autopsies and found that some of the animals had collapsed hearts, suggesting the creatures were drained of blood first, until their pulmonary systems caved in, then the incisions and dissections were made.

“There’s no hemorrhaging around the cut marks,” explains Zukowski. “Meaning it wasn’t bleeding. That means the animal wasn’t living at the time — or, at least, the heart wasn’t pumping blood at the time.”

And to Zukowski, that indicates a certain level of compassion. “That made me feel a little bit better because it meant the cow wasn’t going through a lot of suffering. They bled it out, it died, and then they cut it up.”

So, the cows are dealing with merciful slaughterers. That’s nice. But the real nut of this mystery remains untouched: What could possibly be doing this to these cows? How is it doing it? And, most importantly, why?

The speculative answers those questions have given rise to, have been almost as eccentric and unbelievable as the mutilations themselves:

Some attribute it to arcane animal sacrificing cults, who perform their bloodletting ceremonies under the cover of darkness and in impenetrable secrecy. Others claim that it is doubtlessly the government, running stealthy weapons experiments, or putting deep special ops through intensive initiation tests. Surprisingly, it’s the UFO community who is offering the most sensible explanation: alien abductors.

But even extra-terrestrial enthusiasts, like Zukowski, can’t quite put their finger on why aliens would want their cows. All he’s sure of, is that this has been happening for a very long time.

“I came across a newspaper article from Missouri from back in the late 1800’s,” Zukowski explains. “There was a UFO sighting and the family on the farm ... they were terrified. They stayed in their house all night and thought it was the end of the world.”

The article he’s referencing describes “flashing lights” that “stayed in a circle as if they were all strung together like beads.” The saucer-like object hovered over the family’s barn, and they retreated, terrified, to their house. In the morning, the father discovered three steers, dead and drained of blood. Just like what Mike Duran found in ‘96 and ‘09.

“We actually have a newspaper article going back to the late 1800s — so that tells you, well, it’s not our military.”

In fact, there is only one explanation that no one is seriously proposing: that these mutilations are the result of some natural cause. No animal or force of nature could anatomize a cow with such precision and such scrupulousness. And if some dark underground cult was truly responsible, there surely would have evidence at some point of human foul play. Especially considering the scope and timescale of this phenomena.  

“Since 1967, we’ve estimated close to 10,000 cases across the United States,” Zukowski says. And he points out, that is just in the U.S. — incidents of animal mutilation have been reported around the world.

And, in every single instance in the U.S., where police officers were unable to find evidence of a natural cause of death — like a predator or a lightning strike or some disease — the cops list the event as an instance of “animal cruelty.” Which has, over the years, mounted to become America’s largest unsolved animal cruelty case.

Still, despite the vastness of this unusual mystery, there are no answers. There’s no knowing who, how or why. Which, might be the most unsettling aspect of this whole situation.

“The majority of the ranchers I’ve dealt with are either second or third generation ranchers,” explains Zukowski. “So, they’ve been doing this for a long time — and their fathers and grandfathers — so they’re very familiar with a natural death of an animal. What scares them is when you can’t understand or reason why this animal is dead.”

“It’s just something weird,” Duran says, contemplating the nature of these utterly bizarre mutilations. “Just something unexplainable.”


[cover photo from Pexels // body photos courtesy Chuck Zukowski // originally published March 20, 2018]