The animals – the odd wild boar, Argentinean llama and domestic animals said to be among them – bore the now all-too-familiar marks of the mutilators: tongues, ears, eyes and internal organs including the lungs, larynx, pharynx and saliva glands have been excised. Genitalia and udders have been removed, strips of flesh have been peeled off, but the edible prime cuts remain untouched.
Many classic elements of the North American mute waves are in place here:
The wounds appeared to be extremely clean, as if cut with a hot wire: “it involves technology,” said José Casiavillani, one of the vets who examined the dead animals, “such as an electric scalpel that cuts and cauterizes at the same time.” Where bones are exposed they are extremely clean.
- There appear to be no signs of struggle at the sites of the mutilations, nor track marks, human, animal or machine. A 350-500kg cow will defend itself when attacked, stamping and kicking the ground if distressed. There are no such marks near these animals. In the past this has lead to speculation that the animals are somehow tranquilised, perhaps with a dart, and then transported to another location to be operated on.
- In keeping with mute tradition, other animals, including predators and other cattle, are said to have kept their distance. Many of the mutilated animals also appeared not to decompose, even, in some cases, after being left in the sun for ten days.
- Some of the animals appear to have been drained of blood. American researchers have found that in many cases this can be the result of blood coagulating on the ground side of the body, rather than any vampiric tendencies of the mutilators.
Under three weeks after the first attacks, sometime during the night of 14/15 May, another classically mutilated cow, an Aberdeen Angus, turned up in a field near General Acha, about 100 miles southwest of Salliquelo. These were followed by animals on a ranch near Jacinto Arauz in La Pampa province, 108 miles (180 km) southeast of General Acha and 90 miles (150 km) south of Salliquelo, and on 2 June, two more cows were found some 500m apart, 9 miles (15km) East of General Acha. As well as facial mutilations, one had had an embryo removed from its womb. 2 days later, a cow was found with its lungs missing, on the Gilardina ranch, once again just South of General Acha. On this occasion a resident of nearby Quehue is said to have reported intense lights emanating from the direction of the ranch on the night before the animal was foundOne cow near the town of Nicolas Levalle in southern Buenos Aires province was spotted by a rancher looking dizzy and confused. It broke away form the herd and was found an hour later, its organs neatly excised.
As the weeks progressed, the mutilations grew in number and became increasingly bizarre. . A green humanoid dwarf was spotted in the General Acha area and has been blamed for the attacks. It was seen on at least two occasions skulking around in people’s backyards, but darted off at speed when approached. Around 11 June in La Adela, La Pampa province, 11 cows were found mutilated, their bodies were arranged in a large circle. Other animals were found in areas accessible only on foot, or by air…
Argentina’s cattle mutilations occurred during a period of heightened UFO activity. On 1 May an ‘enormous’ 100-metre (330 ft) long cigar-shaped object was seen by three motorcyclists on Highway 33 near the town of Cahci in Salta province, 750km (450 miles) northwest of Buenos Aires. The object was described as metallic and reflecting the setting sun. It hovered silently about 200m (660ft) over the witnesses before shooting up into the sky at great speed.
The UFO wave reached a peak in the summer. On 19 (or 20) June dozens of holidaymakers at Las Leñas ski resort in Mendoza saw a multicoloured light moving over a hill which holds the resort’s radio transmitter. A similar light was reported by a snow roller driver, who noted that it caused mechanical problems with his vehicle. Many witnesses to the lights have reported televisions, radios and lighting cutting out as they pass by. Other witnesses, including policemen, described bright white lights that “turn night into day”. One provided an intriguing titbit of information: that “it happens after a rain shower or storm, and on cold nights… the lights look like someone's lighting something below from above, like a spotlight with an intense white light.”
Some described the lights as “landing” from the sky, but were adamant that they weren’t helicopters. Other lights appeared to be multicoloured and moved in zig-zag and swinging motions, as in classic UFO cases, while others shone strong beams and down to the ground. They are always silent. While many witnesses and the press connected these UFO sightings with the cattle mutilations, others stressed that they had been seeing the lights regularly for years, as in the case of the remote town of Campamento Vespucio, Salta province. It might be that these, at least, could have some natural explanation.
But not everyone found the mutilations so puzzling, some vets remained adamant that the animals had died of natural causes before being attacked by scavengers. This appeared to contradict the claims by many ranchers that no animals would approach their mutilated cattle. As the reports spread and media interest reached fever pitch, the Argentine instigated an official investigation into the killings. A team from SENASA, the National Health and Agricultural Service, and the National Institute of Agricultural Technology, headed by one Bernardo Cané, set out to get to the bottom of the mystery and a week later, on June 28, declared that they had identified the culprit.
Prime suspect was the humble Oxymycterus, the long-nosed or red-muzzled mouse (left). The idea was that the cows had died of natural causes – brought on by a particularly harsh winter - and were pecked at by hungry scavengers, who relish eyeballs, udders and other dangling parts. Then the mice appear, and, with their long, rodent incisors, neatly snip away at the dead animals’ flesh, creating the seemingly mysterious incisions. By way of evidence, reporters at a Buenos Aires press conference were shown a video of the critters caught red-pawed.
The SENASA team studied 13 cows, some of which had been dead for less than five days, and found mouse droppings in and around all of them. New farming methods, which do away with expensive pesticides and leave much chaff on the fields had, they delared led to a surge in the rodent population, and hence the recent “mutilations”. The lack of tracks near the carcasses could be explained by the fact that many of the animals weren’t found for days after their deaths, and there were no traces of radiation or anything else peculiar at the scenes of the animals that they studied.
The report had the intended effect of dampening media speculation, but ranchers and vets remained deeply unconvinced. They had never seen mice eating dead cows in the past, or during the current mute wave, and nor had rodent specialists. In fact the species fingered by the SENASA team doesn’t even live in La Pampa, which has suffered hundreds of mystery deaths this year. As one journalist put it: “At what medical school did the mice study the art of making such perfect geometric incisions? Where did they find the instruments needed to cauterize wounds?” Vets concurred: "When animals eat, they rip, they tear. They don't cut,” said Alberto Pariani, of the University of La Pampa.” “Everyone who has worked on the ranch says the same thing: No animal can do this."
Mice or no mice, the mutilations continued unabated, if anything increasing in their intensity. Perhaps the most bizarre case took place on the very day that the SENASA report was released, 28 June. In a field near Suco, west of Rio Cuarto in the San Luis province, 19 cows were found literally stuffed into a sheet metal water tank, closed with a conical cap. Nine were dead, drowned in the water, the rest barely alive, having endured near freezing temperatures, not to mention the shock of their lives. This baffling discovery was followed two days later with the discovery of a classic mute in the next field, this time a pregnant cow whose calf somehow survived. Was someone trying to tell SENASA something?
The killings, and the speculation as to their cause, continue, with many of the usual suspects raising their ugly heads: aliens, el chupacabras, Satanists, rival ranchers, the government. Tales are circulating in La Pampa of US scientists and soldiers arriving in the region in large trucks carrying unspecified expensive equipment.
That the mutilations should take place during a time of unprecedented economic woes for Argentina just adds to the confusion. When many people are finding it hard to feed themselves, who or what – whether mice or men – would leave the cows’ prime meat untouched and focus on their internal organs and chewy dangly bits? It may be worth noting that the ‘70s mute wave in the USA followed a dramatic rise in beef prices there, but the mutilations are hardly going to instill consumer confidence in an impoverished and hungry nation. Nor is this the first time the mutilators have hit the country – in 1991 a much smaller wave took place on the border with Uruguay to the East, accompanying a spate of UFO sightings.
There seems little doubt that many mutilations have gone unreported, nor that many natural deaths have been mixed in with the genuinely mysterious reports. It‘s possible too that copycat killers may have taken up the cause in other parts of the country. And certainly the arrangement of dead animals in geometric shapes, such as circles and triangles – as has been reported – suggests a human mind at work. But the question remains, who, why now and what next?…