OGDEN - Great Falls Tribune - 11/12/06
INVESTIGATORS HAVE FEW CLUES TO GO ON
AFTER GRIZZLY KILLING ON VALIER RANCH.
GREAT FALLS — Valier rancher John Peterson and his wife
were recently headed out into the twilight to do chores
when they spotted her. The healthy young cow lay dead in
a stubble field, just off the road.
Stopping the truck to investigate, they found the
sickening, telltale signs. The cow’s udder, genitals and
rectum were cut out with stunning precision. The left
side of her face was carved off, the exposed bones
stripped as clean as if they’d been boiled.
Peterson, who discovered a similarly mutilated cow on
his neighbor’s ranch five years ago, knew he was the
latest victim in one of rural Montana’s greatest
mysteries. Since the 1970s, Montana ranchers have found
dozens of cattle carved up in similar, macabre fashion.
The first known incident was a mutilated steer reported
near Sand Coulee in late August 1974. By December 1977,
sheriff’s deputies had investigated 67 mutilation cases
in Cascade, Judith Basin, Chouteau, Teton and Pondera
In each case, the cuts were made with surgical
precision, often in circular shapes.
Similar cases have haunted ranchers in the Southwest
since the 1970s, when a 300-page federally funded report
concluded the killings were the work of natural
Peterson, a lifelong rancher, says he knows a predator
kill when he sees one. Grizzly bears, wolves and coyotes
aren’t suspects in this case, he said. ‘‘It’s the
weirdest thing,’’ he said. ‘‘A guy hates to say too much
because I don’t know how far you can go before they’ll
put you in the nut house.’’
Others theories, besides predators, involve pranksters,
satanic cults and space aliens.
Whoever, or whatever, is responsible has left precious
few clues for Pondera County Sheriff Tom Kuka. At least
not the kind of clues lawmen are used to.
Like the others, Peterson’s cow was found with no blood
spills or splatters, no footprints and no sign of a
struggle. Nor were there footprints in past cases when
the ground was muddy or snow-covered.
‘‘There’s no reasonable or rational explanation for
this,’’ said Kuka, who is investigating the case as
felony criminal mischief. Peterson’s cow was worth up to
‘‘I’m hoping to find anything that would show how did
this animal came to get there,’’ he said.
Perhaps the most unsettling hallmark of the mutilations
is that hungry predators leave the carcasses untouched.
Peterson discovered the cow Oct. 9 and the birds are
just now starting to peck at it. ‘‘We had a cow die a
week after this one about a half a mile away and there’s
nothing left of that other cow,’’ he said.
Those oddities — no blood, no footprints and no
predators — were all part of a similar spate of
mutilations in the area in 2002, when ranchers reported
at least 15 killings.
In one case, a rancher west of Dupuyer found a carcass
with the skin peeled off the left side of the face and
nose in similar fashion to Peterson’s cow. The left
eyeball, rectum and genitals were cut out. Part of the
left ear was cut off, but the udder was intact.
On a ranch between Fort Shaw and Cascade, a carcass was
missing its left eye, one teat, its genitals and rectum.
But in this latest case at Peterson’s ranch, Kuka found
an intriguing clue. A few feet south of the carcass
there was an impression in the stubble field, like the
cow had lain down there. But there were no footprints or
drag marks between the impression and her final resting
place. It was as if the bovine had fallen from the sky -
and bounced. Could she have been pushed from an
aircraft? There are numerous farmhouses in the
area, and none reported hearing low-flying aircraft.
Aliens? Even Peterson, a down-to-earth sort, admits he’s
pondered extraterrestrial explanations. ‘‘You
never know,’’ he said. ‘‘I ain’t gonna say they’re out
there. But I ain’t gonna say they’re not.’’
Source: Great Falls Tribune @ http://www.helenair.com/articles/2006/11/12/montana/f01111206_01.txt