Oct 14, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Cattle Mutilations: Are They the Work of Giant Insects? Has Sci-Fi Become Reality?

Is it possible that the southwest region of the United States is home to giant-sized, extraterrestrial insects that feed upon us, the human race? Such a thing sounds not just unlikely and incredible, but not too far from the kind of scenario presented in the classic 1954, sci-fi move, Them! It’s a movie in which massive, radioactive ants terrorize and slaughter the people of a small New Mexico town, and threaten to do likewise to not just the rest of the country, but to the entire planet, too. Which brings us to an important question: might truth be stranger than fiction? Danielle B. is a woman who, for a number of years, lived in the New Mexican town of Aztec – which, just like the far more famous New Mexican town of Roswell, has a crashed UFO legend attached to it. It’s a legend which dates back to March 1948, when, reportedly, a near-intact flying saucer and its crew of diminutive dead pilots were found. But, according to Danielle, she encountered something far stranger at Aztec than deceased extraterrestrial dwarfs and a wrecked flying saucer. It was on one particular day in May 2004 that Danielle decided to spend a few hours hanging out in Aztec’s Hart Canyon – which, curiously enough, is exactly where the alleged UFO is said to have fallen to earth, back in the 1940s. It was also where Danielle had an encounter with something far worse than dwarfish, black eyed aliens. On what was a warm and sunny day, Danielle found a place to sit, where she could read a book, and have her snacks and drinks at hand. It was a perfect way to spend a day off work. Or, for a while it was, at least. 

(Nick Redfern) This is where Danielle had her monstrous encounter

All was normal for a couple of hours. That is, until Danielle noticed a small, black helicopter approaching her in the distance. Far more correctly, she assumed that it was a helicopter. Certainly, at a distance that’s what it appeared to be. But it was no normal helicopter: there was no “thud-thud” sound that one associates with the fast-moving blades of a helicopter. And, on top of that, it appeared to be carrying below it a small calf, held tightly in place by thick ropes! Most definitely not the kind of thing you see every day. When the helicopter got close to Hart Canyon, however, Danielle could see that the helicopter was actually nothing of the sort. It was a large, obscene-looking insect of around four meters in length. The presumed rotor-blades of the helicopter were actually the fast-beating wings of the monster-creature. As for those ropes, they were nothing less than powerful-looking black limbs. 

Danielle could only stare – in a mixture of awe, fascination, fear, and horror – as the huge creature flew overhead, dropped the poor calf on a nearby peak, and then swooped to the ground with frightening speed, pounced on the animal, and viciously tore into it. In less than half an hour the giant insect was done with its feasting and took to the skies. Danielle had been too shocked to flee the area at the time; the result of which was that the terrible event was forever embedded in her memory. Even though she clearly wished this was not the case. Suspecting – probably correctly – that if she told local law enforcement officials of what she saw, she would likely be booked for wasting police time, Danielle finally made her shaky way home. She stayed silent on the matter until she confided in me, roughly three years later. Even I have to admit that Danielle’s story stretches credibility to the max – despite the fact that she came across as nothing less than absolutely credible, down to earth, and normal. And while many might be inclined to dismiss such a bizarre account, I don’t. Not because, in X-Files-style, “I want to believe,” but because of something very different. It may come as a surprise to a lot of people to learn that, in the distant past, huge insects – not unlike the one described by Danielle – really did exist.

For example, in the Jurassic era there existed in what today is the United States a dragonfly called Meganeura monyi. This was no regular dragonfly, however. It had a wingspan in excess of three feet. As another example, in 2001 Ohio State University geologists discovered the fossilized remains of a centipede in an old mine. It was a centipede five feet long. Then there were the ancient remains of a sea-scorpion unearthed from a German quarry in 2007; an arthropod, the sea-scorpion is of the same group as insects and spiders. There was something very notable about this particular sea-scorpion, however: it was slightly more than eight feet in length.

(Nick Redfern) It was on the hillside on this photo where Danielle had a second encounter 

Of course, none of these oversized things were alive at the time of their discovery. Indeed, they lived, walked, and flew millions of years ago. But, is it feasible that in certain parts of the United States – and amid a great deal of stealth and, perhaps, underground caves and caverns – certain similar things exist, today? Most people might say “no.” But try asking Danielle and you will get a very different response. To this very day she is no doubt that these things are all too real. At the time of writing, she is working on her own book; it’s a book which ties in the predations of these hideous things with the so-called “cattle mutilation” phenomenon, which has plagued and puzzled ranchers, police officers, and even the FBI, for decades. And particularly so in the southwest. In Danielle’s scenario, the cattle-mutilators are monsters. The mutilators are giant creatures from the stars that are feeding on the nation’s cattle herds late at night. Perhaps, one day, Danielle’s story will finally be vindicated. If such a thing does happen, let’s hope it’s not because the huge, alien insects have decide to turn their predatory attentions towards us, the human race. The possibility that Them! may one day become reality – rather than the stuff of sci-fi – is as chilling as it is disturbing. Before you write off such a fantastic scenario, it’s worth noting that the cattle mutilation phenomenon has concerned and worried the U.S. Government for more than fifty years, as we shall now see.

Since at least 1967, reports have surfaced throughout the United States of animals – but, chiefly, cattle – slaughtered in bizarre fashion. Organs are taken and significant amounts of blood are found to be missing. In some cases, the limbs of the cattle are broken, suggesting they have been dropped to the ground from a significant height. Evidence of extreme heat, to slice into the skin of the animals, has been found at mutilation sites. Eyes are removed, tongues are sliced off, and, typically, the sexual organs are gone. While the answers to the puzzle remain frustratingly outside of the public arena, theories abound. They include extraterrestrials, engaged in nightmarish experimentation of the genetic kind; military programs involving the testing of new bio-warfare weapons; occult-based groups that sacrifice the cattle in ritualistic fashion; and government agencies secretly monitoring the food-chain, fearful that something worse than “Mad Cow Disease” may have infected the U.S. cattle herd – and, possibly, as a result, the human population, too. And, of course, there is Danielle's theory, too.

Cattle mutilations are a favorite topic of UFO researchers and conspiracy theorists. From the mid-1970s to the dawning of the 1980s, however, the phenomenon was of deep interest to another body: the FBI. From January to March 1973, the state of Iowa was hit hard by cattle mutilations. Not only that, many of the ranchers who lost animals reported seeing strange lights and black-colored helicopters in the direct vicinities of the attacks. That the FBI took keen notice of all this is demonstrated by the fact that, as the Freedom of Information Act has shown, it collected and filed numerous media reports on the cattle-mutes in Iowa. The next piece of data dates from early September 1974. That’s when the FBI’s director, Clarence M. Kelley, was contacted by Senator Carl T. Curtis, who wished to inform the Bureau of a wave of baffling attacks on livestock in Nebraska – the state in which Curtis resided and represented.

At the time, the FBI declined to get involved, as Director Kelley informed the senator: “It appears that no Federal Law within the investigative jurisdiction of the FBI has been violated, inasmuch as there is no indication of interstate transportation of the maimed animals.” One year later, in August 1975, Senator Floyd K. Haskell, of Colorado, made his voice known to the FBI, on the growing cattle mutilation controversy: “For several months my office has been receiving reports of cattle mutilations throughout Colorado and other western states. At least 130 cases in Colorado alone have been reported to local officials and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI); the CBI has verified that the incidents have occurred for the last two years in nine states. The ranchers and rural residents of Colorado are concerned and frightened by these incidents. The bizarre mutilations are frightening in themselves: in virtually all the cases, the left ear, rectum and sex organ of each animal has been cut away and the blood drained from the carcass, but with no traces of blood left on the ground and no footprints.”

The senator had much more to say, too: “In Colorado’s Morgan County area there has [sic] also been reports that a helicopter was used by those who mutilated the carcasses of the cattle, and several persons have reported being chased by a similar helicopter. Because I am gravely concerned by this situation, I am asking that the Federal Bureau of Investigation enter the case. “Although the CBI has been investigating the incidents, and local officials also have been involved, the lack of a central unified direction has frustrated the investigation. It seems to have progressed little, except for the recognition at long last that the incidents must be taken seriously. Now it appears that ranchers are arming themselves to protect their livestock, as well as their families and themselves, because they are frustrated by the unsuccessful investigation. Clearly something must be done before someone gets hurt.”

 Again, the FBI – some ranchers and media people thought, rather suspiciously – declined to get involved in the investigation of the phenomenon. It was a stance the FBI rigidly stuck to (despite collecting numerous, nationwide newspaper and magazine articles on the subject) until 1978. That was when the FBI learned of an astonishing number of horse and cattle mutilations in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico – mutilations which actually dated back to 1976. They had all been scrupulously investigated and documented by Police Officer Gabe Valdez of Espanola. It was when the FBI was contacted by New Mexico Senator Harrison Schmitt (also the twelfth person to set foot on the Moon – in December 1972), who implored the FBI to get involved, that action was finally taken. In March 1979, Assistant Attorney General Heymann prepared a summary on the New Mexico cases for the FBI, and – for good measure – photocopied all of Officer Valdez’s files to the Bureau’s director. Things were about to be taken to a new level. As Valdez’s voluminous records showed, from the summer of 1975 to the early fall of 1978, no less than twenty-eight cattle mutilation incidents occurred in Rio Arriba County. One of the most bizarre events occurred in June 1976, as Valdez’s files demonstrate:

“Investigations around the area revealed that a suspected aircraft of some type had landed twice, leaving three pod marks positioned in a triangular shape. The diameter of each pod was 14 inches. Emanating from the two landings were smaller triangular shaped tripods 28 inches and 4 inches in diameter. Investigation at the scene showed that these small tripods had followed the cow for approximately 600 feet. Tracks of the cow showed where she had struggled and fallen. The small tripod tracks were all around the cow. Other evidence showed that grass around the tripods, as they followed the cow, had been scorched. Also a yellow oily substance was located in two places under the small tripods. This substance was submitted to the State Police Lab. The Lab was unable to detect the content of the substance. A sample of the substance was submitted to a private lab and they were unable to analyze the substance due to the fact that it disappeared or disintegrated. Skin samples were analyzed by the State Police Lab and the Medical Examiner’s Office. It was reported that the skin had been cut with a sharp instrument.”

Seventy-two hours later, Valdez liaised with Dr. Howard Burgess, of the New Mexico-based Sandia Laboratories, with a view to having the area checked for radiation. It was a wise move. The radiation level was double that which could normally be expected. Valdez’s conclusions on this issue: “It is the opinion of this writer that radiation findings are deliberately being left at the scene to confuse investigators.” The case was not over, however. Whatever, or whoever, was responsible for the mutilation made a return visit. Once again, we need to take a look at the official files on the affair. In Valdez’s own, official words:  “There was also evidence that the tripod marks had returned and removed the left ear. Tripod marks were found over Mr. Gomez’s tire tracks of his original visit. The left ear was intact when Mr. Gomez first found the cow. The cow had a 3-month-old calf which has not been located since the incident. This appears strange since a small calf normally stays around the mother even though the cow is dead.”

 On the matter of whether or not the mutilations were the work of cults or natural predators, Valdez said: “Both have been ruled out due to expertise and preciseness and the cost involved to conduct such a sophisticated and secretive operation. It should also be noted that during the spring of 1974 when a tremendous amount of cattle were lost due to heavy snowfalls, the carcasses had been eaten by predators. These carcasses did not resemble the carcasses of the mutilated cows. Investigation has narrowed down to these theories which involve (1) Experimental use of Vitamin B12 and (2) The testing of the lymph node system. During this investigation an intensive study has been made of (3) What is involved in germ warfare testing, and the possible correlation of these 3 factors (germ warfare testing, use of Vitamin B12, testing of the lymph node system).” A very strange report can be found in Valdez’s files, from 1978: “This four year old cross Hereford and Black Angus native cow was found lying on left side with rectum, sex organs, tongue, and ears removed. Pinkish blood from [illegible] was visible, and after two days the blood still had not coagulated. Left front and left rear leg were pulled out of their sockets apparently from the weight of the cow which indicates that it was lifted and dropped back to the ground. The ground around and under the cow was soft and showed indentations where the cow had been dropped. 600 yards away from the cow were the 4-inch circular indentations similar to the ones found at the Manuel Gomez ranch on 4-24-78. 

“This cow had been dead approximately [illegible] hours and was too decomposed to extract samples. This is the first in a series of mutilations in which the cows’ legs are broken. Previously the animals had been lifted from the brisket with a strap. These mutilated animals all dehydrate rapidly (in one or two days).” As the summer of 1978 progressed, so did the number of reports where elevated radiation readings were found, as Valdez noted in his records: “It is believed that this type of radiation is not harmful to humans, although approximately 7 people who visited the mutilation site complained of nausea and headaches. However, this writer has had no such symptoms after checking approximately 11 mutilations in the past 4 months. Identical mutilations have been taking place all over the Southwest. It is strange that no eye witnesses have come forward or that no accidents [have] occurred. One has to admit that whoever is responsible for the mutilations is very well organized with boundless financing and secrecy. Writer is presently getting equipment through the efforts of Mr. Howard Burgess, Albuquerque, N.M. to detect substances on the cattle which might mark them and be picked up by infra-red rays but not visible to the naked eye.”

(FBI) This cattle mutilation document was prepared by an agent of the FBI

Because the FBI is an arm of the U.S. Government, it places the document in the public domain

A lengthy document, prepared by Forrest S. Putman, the FBI’s Special-Agent-in-Charge at Albuquerque, New Mexico was soon thereafter sent to the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. It read: “Information furnished to this office by Officer Valdez indicates that the animals are being shot with some type of paralyzing drug and the blood is being drawn from the animal after an injection of an anti-coagulant. It appears that in some instances the cattle’s legs have been broken and helicopters without any identifying numbers have reportedly been seen in the vicinity of these mutilations. “Officer Valdez theorizes that clamps are being placed on the cow’s legs and they are being lifted by helicopter to some remote area where the mutilations are taking place and then the animal is returned to its original pasture. The mutilations primarily consist of removal of the tongue, the lymph gland, lower lip and the sexual organs of the animal. Much mystery has surrounded these mutilations, but according to witnesses they give the appearance of being very professionally done with a surgical instrument, and according to Valdez, as the years progress, each surgical procedure appears to be more professional. Officer Valdez has advised that in no instance, to his knowledge, are these carcasses ever attacked by predator or scavenger animals, although there are tracks which would indicate that coyotes have been circling the carcass from a distance. Special Agent Putman then informed the Director of the outcome of Valdez’s run-ins with officials.

“He also advised that he has requested Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory to conduct investigation for him but until just recently has always been advised that the mutilations were done by predatory animals. Officer Valdez stated that just recently he has been told by two assistants at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory that they were able to determine the type of tranquilizer and blood anti-coagulant that have been utilized.” Putnam then demonstrated to headquarters the astonishing scale of the mutilation puzzle: “Officer Valdez stated that Colorado probably has the most mutilations occurring within their State and that over the past four years approximately 30 have occurred in New Mexico. He stated that of these 330, 15 have occurred on Indian Reservations but he did know that many mutilations have gone unreported which have occurred on the Indian reservations because the Indians, particularly in the Pueblos, are extremely superstitious and will not even allow officers in to investigate in some instances. Officer Valdez stated since the outset of these mutilations there have been an estimated 8,000 animals mutilated which would place the loss at approximately $1,000,000.” Nothing solid was found out.

While none of the above data confirms the controversial claims of Danielle B., it does at least demonstrate there is a real, disturbing, cattle mutilation phenomenon .

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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