Disturbing cow mutilation evokes past Montana mysteries
Pondera County is a historic hotspot for mutilated cattle. About 15 such cases were reported in 2001 and 2002 in the county, and another five were reported in the neighboring counties of Cascade and Glacier.
Montana’s first known similar incident was a Sand Coulee steer in late August 1974. By December 1977, sheriff’s deputies had investigated 67 mutilation cases in Cascade, Judith Basin, Chouteau, Teton and Pondera counties.
The hallmarks of these incidents are the almost surgically precise removal of reproductive organs, udders, anuses, teats and tongues with very little bleeding. Flesh around the jaw often is removed, exposing the mandible. Sometimes, internal organs are removed with no obvious points of entry.
The Department of Livestock doesn’t track cattle mutilations, leaving it to individual county sheriffs to investigate.
Considering a cow typically is sold for $1,200, the crime is investigated as felony criminal mischief.
Though both have since left the Pondera Sheriff’s Office, Dick Dailey and Dan Campbell collected photos and evidence on Montana cattle mutilations for years, pinpointing each incident on a map.
“Nothing about it seemed natural,” said Dailey, who worked on ranches in Wyoming and Montana before joining the sheriff’s department. “The cuts on them … if predators were doing it, it would be stringy. These were really smooth cuts.”…
One cow found shortly after it died was tested by the Las Vegas Institute of Science. Dailey said it had high amounts of a government-controlled sedative in its blood stream.
A few feet south of the carcass was a foot-deep impression in the stubblefield. There were no drag marks or footprints to the cow’s final resting place — as if the bovine had fallen from the sky and then bounced.
Now a ranch foreman in Augusta, Campbell is certain animals didn’t mutilate the cattle, but he is not willing to leap to any unearthly conclusions.