Investigation of a Report of Animal Mutilation in Dupuyer, Montana on 6/27/2001
NIDS received a call from local law enforcement regarding a six-year old Red Angus cow found dead at 8:00-9:00 AM on 6/27/01 near Dupuyer, Montana. According to the rancher, the animal had last been seen alive on 6/25/01. The animal was lying on its right side. The left eye and eyelid were missing, the hide from the left jaw was missing and parts of the tongue were gone. The vagina and rectum were also missing. A thorough examination of the area by law enforcement failed to reveal any tracks, markings or signs of struggle from the animal. When the hide under the left jaw was cut away, investigators noticed a greenish-colored tissue mass just under the jaw. The green color markedly contrasted with the pink color of the surrounding tissue. Because of the ambient temperature and humidity in the area and to prevent further decomposition, the head of the animal was severed and immediately frozen. After the head was thoroughly frozen in Montana, it was then rapidly shipped to NIDS in Las Vegas, Nevada, where it was immediately stored at 85ºC to prevent further decomposition.
NIDS then consulted with a forensic expert, who arranged to fly to Las Vegas to conduct a thorough sampling of the head. An analysis of the eyes and jaw showed no blood in the tissue, indicating that the heart had stopped beating upon removal of the tissues. If the animal was mutilated, the mutilation occurred after death. In addition to the gross pathology, samples of eye fluid from the animal's right eye and tissue from the neck area were collected. A comprehensive set of organic extraction procedures followed by Infrared spectrometry and gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS) analysis were conducted to determine the molecular components in the eye fluid and tissues. Preliminary chemical analysis was also conducted on maggot mass from the animal.
A second animal was obtained from a slaughterhouse and left to decompose for four days as a sham or control animal. Tissue and eye fluid from the control animal was subjected to identical extraction and analytical procedures.
A compound called oxindole was found in both tissue and eye fluid from the mutilated animal but not in the control animal, suggesting oxindole was not a decomposition product. The clinical and pharmacological properties of oxindole have been examined primarily in Europe (Mannaioni et al.(1998) British J. Pharmac. 125, 1751-1760). However, prior to these more recent studies, it has been well established that systemic administration of oxindole to rats, dogs or humans has been shown to cause profound sedation, decrease in blood pressure, decrease in muscular tone and loss of consciousness (Orcutt et al. (1964) Arch. Int. Pharmacodynam. 152, 121-131). Our failure to find oxindole in the control animal leads us to the working hypothesis that oxindole may have been used to sedate the animal prior to its death and mutilation. Similar analyses of different mutilated animals in the future will either substantiate or negate this working hypothesis. For example, the pharmacokinetic data on administration of oxindole to large animals is scanty as are the data on the extent of rumen-saliva recycling of tryptophan metabolites. A second hypothesis is that a traumatic event triggered the swift accumulation of oxindole in the tissues of the mutilated animal but not in the control animal. These subjects are currently under study.
Since the summer of 2001, NIDS has received over eight reports of animal mutilations from Montana, the majority of which were too old to seriously investigate. Nevertheless, this number of reports in a few months constitutes by far the largest report frequency received in the history of NIDS investigations of the animal mutilation phenomenon. Therefore, the present case should be seen not as an isolated incident, but in the context of a wave of mutilation reports in 2001 from Montana. It should also be noted that during the period 1974-1977, the Great Falls area of Montana was the locus of one of the most intense and sustained waves of reported animal mutilations in recorded history. For more details on this historical animal mutilation wave see the NIDS report at http://www.nidsci.org/articles/pdf/wolverton_report.pdf.
Finally, NIDS is gratified by the increasing spirit of cooperation and collegiality between our organization and ranchers, law enforcement officials and veterinarians. We believe that the successful investigation of animal mutilations is utterly dependent upon close cooperation between NIDS and three separate groups: (a) ranchers who are willing to make timely reports to NIDS (702-798-1700) or to local law enforcement, (b) open-minded veterinarians who are willing to conduct timely necropsies on mutilated animals, and (c) hard-working law enforcement officials who serve as both investigators and liaisons between NIDS and the ranchers themselves. We emphasize that NIDS absorbs 100% of the costs of these investigations. Secondly, because of the controversial nature of the animal mutilation phenomenon, NIDS does NOT publicize the names of ranchers, law enforcement officials or veterinarians who work with us.
The full 50 page report with photographs, tables, figures and raw data can be found in the What's New section of the NIDS web site www.nidsci.org.