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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Charley Eckhardt's Texas"

‘Mysterious Cattle Deaths’
Not So Mysterious

by C. F. Eckhardt
In the news over the past several years there has been a rash of ‘mysterious’ deaths of livestock, most notably cattle. Apparently the animals have been sucked dry of blood, as a general rule the genitals have been cut out, apparently surgically, the eyes are usually gone, often the tongue is gone, and the rectum has been removed. These have been blamed on everything from UFOs to Satanic cults. Apparently, they are the result of neither.

Mike Bradshaw, a Texas lawman with 37 years field experience, has been a Texas game warden for most of those years. In a letter to me he explained what’s happening to those cattle.

“I’ve watched with great interest the ‘investigators’ in Colorado and New Mexico who gave their TV testimonials regarding animal mutilations. None had used the crime labs or veterinary science colleges. I couldn’t believe seasoned investigators made such mistakes in their crime scene processing—that is, until I realized these were city-boy investigators unaccustomed to dealing with animals and natural influences. Give these boys a dead man in downtown Denver and more than likely they would have solved the crime easily, but they were out of their league on these particular types of investigations.

“We’ve had the same situation here in Dimmit County, when I assisted Warren Allee (brother to Captain Alfred Allee of the Rangers), a Special Ranger with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. I was green as a gourd and had little practical field experience while Warren was, without a doubt, the finest country-boy crime scene investigator ever to dig through a gutpile.

“The case involved about eight or ten 650-lb steer calves that died on the Piloncillo ranch near Catarina. The caretaker found them a day or two later strung out around the same hill on which they’d bedded. They’d been on the property for a month and all were healthy upon arrival. On nearly all the steers the penis had been removed from the belly, leaving a circular mark, sometimes an elliptical mark, ranging from silver-dollar size to about the size of a quart oil can lid. An eye from each was missing, the anus was hollowed out, and the tongues had been removed. The caller said his dogs barked in the night and he’d found a spot where he suspected a spacecraft pod had touched the ground. He’d even tested one of the animals by cutting it and found that it didn’t bleed. ‘Damn,’ he said. ‘They’ve even sucked out all the blood just like in those other places I’ve been reading about.’ As soon as Warren stroked his hand over the animals and heard a distinctive crackling noise he shook his head and told the fellow he was dead wrong.

“The guy asked about the lack of blood. Warren explained that when an animal dies, the lack of blood pressure allows the blood to sink to the lowest spot. Then over the course of hours the blood clots to the thickness of Jello, and of course, won’t bleed a drop if you cut the animal. He even stripped out the jugular vein on one animal and demonstrated by mashing out the thickened red goo.

“’Well, how about the missing penis?’ the guy asked. Warren carefully cut out a section of the hide from the circular spot and held it sideways where the man could compare the cuts. Imagine looking at a piece of leather, holding it flat and looking at it edgeways. I saw the sharp, clean edge of Warren’s cut. It looked like this:[. The top and bottom of the bracket is the outside and inside of the hide, while the vertical piece is the cut. He invited the man to compare his cut with the one that had been left on the steer. As he pointed out, rats had chewed the hide off while going after the salty urine. As they bit and stripped off the edge, their upper and lower incisors and canine teeth made a mark like a lazy V, looking like this: >. The pointed end is where the rat pulled and his choppers popped shut. ‘I’ll be durned,’ the fellow said.

“The guy wouldn’t give up. ‘Okay, what about the eye?’ Buzzards will habitually peck the eye of an animal to see if it’s dead. Warren explained that as well. The hollowed-out rectum was the tender spot where buzzards always enter first on a large-framed animal. On smaller animals they usually go directly for the guts through the belly. The wood rats removed the tongues, as well.

“And the pod mark where the ‘spacecraft’ set down? That was the best one. The fellow had even placed a bucket on top of the track so nothing would disturb it. Three steers had obviously stepped in the same spot while going different directions and left a goofy-looking mark. Warren had to take a stick and trace out the three hoofprints before the fellow would believe it.

“The cracking sound? That’s the sound of gas bubbles under the skin. This is one of the primary field tests for Blackleg. When you run your hand down a bovine’s back or legs, mashing while you do so, it sounds like thin ice cracking and breaking. If animals haven’t been vaccinated for Blackleg they’ll often die like flies when rainy weather hits.”

Mike went on to say “In the past thirty-seven years I’ve been present to assist or direct nearly every kind of dead-animal investigation you can imagine and have assisted in over a hundred human death investigations in one way or another. Several of the animal investigations involved non-bleeding carcasses. So far, the cases have had logical explanations.”

In the case of the death of a human, once the heart stops beating the blood will settle in the lowest parts of the body and coagulate, exactly as it does in an animal. Since human skin is largely hairless or very thinly haired at best, the blood will show up as a purplish discoloration of the skin. This is called ‘post-mortem lividity,’ and is a very important tool in death investigation. It tells the investigator what position the body was in at death. It also tells the investigator whether or not the body has been moved. If, for instance, the post-mortem lividity of a corpse is located in the lower legs, the buttocks, the backs of the thighs, and the forearms and hands, the individual was probably sitting in a chair when death occurred. The body remained in the chair, probably for well over an hour. However, it was found lying on its back, but there was no post-mortem lividity on the back or the back of the head. The body was moved and placed on its back. If no one admits moving the body, the case should be treated as a homicide.

In a dead animal the post-mortem lividity is there—but the thick, colored hair on the hide conceals it. This would lead someone familiar with post-mortem lividity in human death investigation—or not familiar with the phenomenon at all--to assume the body has been drained of blood.
© C. F. Eckhardt
"Charley Eckhardt's Texas"

August 15, 2007 column


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