Cattle rancher rides his horse in a field near Dufur, Oregon, as he helps a friend herd cattle. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

Since the beginning of 2021, cattle ranchers in Central Oregon’s Crook County have found several cattle dead in the fields.

But what makes those deaths so mysterious is the condition of their bodies. No blood. Missing body parts. Seemingly surgical incisions and extraction of organs and genitalia.

Cattle mutilations aren’t new to Oregon or the West Coast, but at least one expert says the mysterious deaths are caused by forces outside of our world.

Theories about what is happening to the animals vary. Some say it’s part of the natural decomposition process, others blame scavengers and people working to hurt the ranchers by affecting their bottom line.

One expert said the cattle mutilations are the result of some out of this world experimentation.

Linda Moulton Howe, a journalist and paranormal investigator, has been investigating cattle mutilations since 1979. She believes the bloodless, trackless animal deaths are evidence that we are being visited by extraterrestrials.

“I began investigating bloodless, trackless animal mutilations (domestic and wild) in Colorado in September 1979, when I was Director of Special Projects at the CBS station KMGH-TV in Denver, Colorado,” she said. “Law enforcement and ranchers saw strange glowing circular craft at night extend beams down into their pastures where they would find a bloodlessly mutilated animal after the sun came up. It was Sheriff Tex Graves of Logan County, Colorado, who told me in September 1979, ‘The perpetrators of these animal mutilations are creatures from outer space.’”

Howe said that again and again, she heard from law enforcement and other investigators that the attacks were preceded by lights in the sky.

As part of her investigation, Howe discovered these kinds of cattle mutilations have gone on around the world for decades.

“I quickly learned they were not confined to Colorado,” she said. “I’ve been in almost every state in the United States and in Canada. I talked with a producer at the BBC in London, they had found a journal that went back to 1904 in Australia, where sheep were mutilated  – tongues gone, genitals gone, random organs removed, but no blood.” 

In her book Alien Harvest, Howe said incidents of cattle mutilation have been documented in every country except India.

In Oregon, Crook County Undersheriff James Savage said his department is investigating the cattle mutilations.

“Well, yeah, it makes us angry,” he told the Northwest News Network. “It’s upsetting, because, again, it’s our livelihood. It’s how they make their money and how they feed their families and support themselves.”

Savage said it started with a cow found in late February on a remote private land. Since then, another six animals have turned up across the county with missing body parts, he said. In most cases, the dead animal’s sex organs, tongue or eyes are cleanly removed from the body with surgical-like preision. However, law enforcement officers investigating the carcasses say the scenes appear to be bloodless.

According to the Oregonian, detectives called large animal vet Taylor Karlin, who agreed that the deaths were unnatural. Her comments were included in a search warrant request filed by detectives in the case to find cell phone activity near the incident sites.

Calls to Crook County Sheriff’s Detective Javier Sanchez, who is working the investigation, were not immediately returned.

This isn’t the first time ranchers in Oregon have reported cattle mutilations. In 2019, in Harney County, five bulls were found dead with their sex organs and tongues removed. Cases have also been reported in Wasco, Umatilla, Wheeler, and Lake counties in recent years. Those reports mirror ones reported during a rash of cattle mutilations in the late 1970s across the American West and Midwest.

Sheriffs from the Oregon counties where recent cattle mutilations have occurred are working to coordinate and share information, officials said.

If any criminal wrongdoing is found in the cattle deaths, those responsible could face possible charges ranging from criminal mischief, trespassing to aggravated animal abuse.

But some say these are all just natural deaths.

Brian Dunning, host of the long-running podcast Skeptoid, said these cases are typical of previous cattle mutilations attributed to aliens or satanic rituals. All of the mysterious elements of the cattle corpses can be explained by science, he said.

“When an animal dies in the field, predation sets in very quickly, the first responders being insects and birds,” Dunning said in an email interview with the Daily Yonder. “The exposed soft tissue is always the first to go: eyes, lips and tongue, genitals. As the animal is dead with zero blood pressure, there is no bleeding. The exposed skin dries and shrinks tight, giving the impression of a perfect scalpel-like slice. Blowflies and other insects, whose eggs can hatch in 10 hours, fill the wounds with maggots which can expose clean, dry bone in just a few hours more.”

During the height of the cattle mutilation craze in the 1970s, one sheriff decided to do his own research, Dunning said.

“The whole alien autopsy and Satanic Panic currents in pop culture reached a high in the 1970s and cattle mutilation was a headliner for both,” he said. “There was a sheriff in Arkansas, Herb Marshall, who wanted to see for himself what was going on with all these reports, so he put a fresh cow carcass out in a field and they observed what happened. After just two days, he’d not only seen the above bird and insect effects, but the stomach split open from expanding gases and blowflies had completely cleaned out the internal organs. At that point, his department stopped searching for mythical Satan worshippers.”

In the 1970s, even the Federal Bureau of Investigation did research into cattle mutilations, and came to the same conclusions.

What happened to the animal prior to being discovered in their “mutilated” state is a question for animal experts, he said.

“The fact that the carcass experienced postmortem predation doesn’t necessarily tell us anything at all about the cause of death — predation tends to happen no matter how the animal died,” he said. “In most cases, a veterinarian should be able to determine a cause of death quite easily with a necropsy. So far, in all the countless cases like this, none has ever been found to have an extraordinary or inexplicable cause of death.”