December 20, 2009

Cattle Mutilations Return? Part 3

(Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)

Let's return to Manuel Sanchez's dead calves over in the San Luis Valley. And let's think about wildlife rather than mad cultists, cow-snatching aliens, or secret government agencies.
Let's make "surgical incisions" with Occam's razor.

First, although I am not a rancher, some of my relatives are, and we have talked about how predators and scavengers deal with cattle.

Second, I grew up with big-game hunting, so I know a little big about what happens when you leave a large dead animal out in the wild—in particular, what happens to the gut pile (the internal organs, intestines, etc.).

1. Manuel Sanchez says he lost four calves, one week. Right there I would wonder about mountain lions, which typically eat a deer every week to ten days. Would a large calf be similar enough to a mulie doe as a food source?

2. "Their innards gone. Tongues sliced out. Udders carefully removed. Facial skin sliced and gone. Eyes cored away."

Watch out for those verbs: "sliced" and "cored" and the adverb "carefully." They might imply the use of tools and make you think of human perpetrators. 

Predators such as wolves (not in Colorado in any number) and mountain lions go for the underbelly when opening a carcass—no bones in the way.

3. "Not a drop of blood on the ground or even on the remaining skin."  (more after the jump).

Shoot a large animal through the chest, open it right away with a knife, and you will find blood sloshing around the chest cavity, plus blood pumped onto the ground before the heart stopped.

But let it sit 24 hours and the blood seems mostly to vanish. It coagulates and stays in the organs rather than pouring out, particularly if the lungs and heart have not been damaged by animals who eat guts first.

4. "A lion will drag its kill. Coyotes rip and tear flesh. These were perfect cuts — like with a laser or like a scalpel. And what would take the waste — all the guts — and leave the nice, tender meat?"

Unlike middle-class North Americans, who prefer muscle meat, predators often eat the innards first. (Our poorer ancestors, of course, ate tripe soup, menudo, chitterlings/chitlins, etc. too.)

If a hunter shoots a deer or elk, field dresses it (removing the innards), and then runs out of daylight, he or she may have to hang the carcass there in the woods. Usually, it is safe to do that overnight, especially if the carcass is dragged a little distance from the gut pile, because scavengers such as bears and coyotes will generally go for the gut pile first.

Lions often drag kills, yes. But not always a great distance. And not every lion "read the manual." Note the photo in the news story: this animal is completely bloated--it has been dead for days.

Of another rancher Blevins writes, "Then he saw the ears: sliced off the head in circular, surgical-like cuts. He noticed that there were no tracks. And no blood anywhere."

"Surgical-like" is another piece of tricky language. Dead cattle bloat fast, and as cut flesh swells, minor imperfections in incisions seem to be smoothed out.

Birds such ravens and magpies, who cannot open the hide, will start pecking where an opening exists: the eyes, the anus, etc. Hence the "coring out." Much has been made by mutilation "investigators" about the missing eyes. From a magpie's perspective, that is the maraschino cherry on the sundae.

There are more wildlife videos available now than 30 years ago, and people have learned by watching them, like the Denver Post reader who wrote in response to Blevins' piece:

I watched a documentary a number of years ago on PBS, which filmed a carcass left in the wild and condensed it into a time-lapse film. The carcass, due to the action of carrion-eating insects, small animals and microbes, appeared to “melt” away at the points where the tissue was softest and not covered by tough hide (tongue, udder, genitals, eyes, ears, etc.). The margins of these areas appeared surgically precise due to the consumption of all of the soft tissue. Internal organs, including the brain and entrails, also disappeared, presumably because the same carrion-eating creatures found easy entry through the previously consumed areas of the body and then consumed these organs. The blood pooled in dependent areas of the body as well as being consumed, and also “disappeared.”

Next, let's talk about "narrative."

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