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Cattle mutilations, April 2003, USA:

This article was published in the daily newspaper Omaha World-Herald, USA, on April 16, 2003.

3 Cows, Bull Calf Mutilated Patrol Says

by Paul Hammel
World-Herald Staff Writer

VALPARAISO, Neb. - Three cows and a bull calf were killed on two separate nights in what officials are calling cases of cattle mutilation.

The animals were found the mornings of April 5 and April 7 in the same pasture about three miles west of Valparaiso on Nebraska Highway 66.

Two cows and a bull calf were found after the first incident. A teat was removed from one of the cows, and the rectum and testicles were cut from the bull calf. Two mornings later, one cow was found dead. An attempt had been made to cut off a teat.

A veterinarian who examined the cattle ruled that they had died from electrocution, said Jay Petersen, a Lincoln-based investigator with the Nebraska State Patrol.

Petersen said tire and boot tracks were found after the second incident, which occurred during a heavy snowstorm. There were few other clues.

"People talk about this being a cult-type activity, but that's really hard to say," he said. "I don't like to speculate about things like that.

"But it's hard for me to imagine a cult going out in a raging snowstorm doing something like this, or even a prankster doing this during a snowstorm."

Petersen said it was the first cattle mutilation case he has worked in five years as an investigator, although there was a report of a similar mutilation in the Valparaiso area in 1994.

Officials with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Cattlemen said they hadn't heard of a cattle mutilation case in the state for several years.

"This is the first one I've heard of in I can't remember how long, thankfully," said Mike Fitzgerald, a spokesman for Nebraska Cattlemen.

Several Internet sites contain information about cattle mutilations and speculate that UFOs or cults may be the cause.

In Montana, between June and October of 2001, 15 cases of cattle mutilations were reported.

Such cases are expensive. Three cows and a calf are worth around $2,000. That makes the crime one of felony criminal mischief, Petersen said.

Dr. James Weiss, animal epidemiologist with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, said it wouldn't be that difficult to electrocute a cow. Occasionally, he said, electrical shorts in water heaters for stock tanks can kill an animal that takes a drink.

Petersen said the mutilations probably happened during the early morning of April 5 and 7.

Anyone with any information about the incidents is asked to call the patrol's Crime Stoppers number, (800) 422-1494.

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