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Baltimore Sun On Argentine Mutilations

From: Stig Agermose <stig.agermose@privat.dk>
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2002 16:41:17 +0200
Fwd Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2002 17:25:35 -0400
Subject: Baltimore Sun On Argentine Mutilations

Source: The Baltimore Sun

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Eerie X-File of the pampas

By Reed Lindsay

Originally published Jul 23, 2002


SALIQUELLO, Argentina - Daniel Belot has seen his share of dead

As a veterinarian in the heart of the cow-full pampas, Belot has
written off bovine deaths to causes as diverse as foot-and-mouth
disease, bloat, lightning, killer bees and cattle thieves who
butcher their loot in place, a crime that has become
increasingly common as Argentina's economic crisis has extended
to the countryside.

Then, in April, he discovered a case that stumped him. A rancher
had found a nearly 1,000-pound Aberdeen Angus lying on its belly
"like a rabbit," in Belot's words. The left side of its face
around the jaw was gone, the hide cut away in two straight lines
meeting at a 90-degree angle.

Its tongue, pharynx and larynx were missing. Muscles and
ligaments had been removed from the jawbones, leaving them
spotless. There was no blood on the animal or nearby; nor were
there signs of scavengers or predators.

"I had never seen anything like it before," says Belot, who
works for Argentina's animal health agency, Senasa, in the
sleepy town of Saliquello. "How were those cuts made? When?

Three months later, Belot has no answers. Across this country's
immense, grassy plains, Argentina's renowned beef cattle are
turning up dead, mutilated in ways that have baffled experts and
spooked ranchers.

Since Belot detected the first mutilation in April, nearly 200
more have been reported in the area, in addition to a scattering
of cases from as far away as Patagonia and Uruguay.

Most cows have the same missing parts as the first one examined
by Belot. But all the mutilations share an uncanny similarity:
Organs, flesh and skin have been removed in angular or neatly
curved cuts that leave no blood and clean, dry bones.

"The type of incisions do not coincide with any infectious or
contagious disease that we know," says Alberto Pariani, a
veterinarian at the University of La Pampa who has examined 40
mutilated cows. "When animals eat, they rip, they tear. They
don't cut.

"Everyone who has experience working on the ranch says the same
thing: No animal can do this."

Blame has been pinned on everything from ravenous rodents to
satanic cults, but in the farmhouses and small towns that dot
the pampas, the paranormal is the No. 1 suspect. Sure enough,
the mutilations have been accompanied by a spate of UFO

The mutilations are not without precedent. Since the 1960s,
hundreds of mutilated animals have been found in the United
States with nearly identical characteristics - removal of organs
in what appear to be surgically precise cuts, no trace of blood,
no tracks of humans or animals, often with coinciding
testimonies of strange lights.

Mutilation cases have been reported during the past year in
Montana and Oregon. The news media have evoked comparisons with
the legend of the chupacabras, literally "goat sucker," revived
in Puerto Rico several years ago when farm animals there were
reportedly found dead and bloodless with abnormal puncture

But according to an Argentine government-backed investigation,
the mutilations have an earthly explanation. A team of
university veterinarians working with specialists from Senasa
and the National Institute of Agricultural Technology recently
announced that they had caught the mysterious cow mutilator.

The culprit's name: Oxymycterus, commonly known as the long-
nosed mouse. The theory holds that the cows die from disease or
other natural causes, not unusual in winter, and are then set
upon by scavengers, including foxes and birds. But it is the
hungry long- nosed mouse, with its four potent incisors, that is
allegedly responsible for nibbling off flesh and hide in
circular and linear cuts.

To prove their hypothesis, veterinarians at the national
university in the city of Tandil placed dead cows in areas where
some of the mutilations had been discovered. Four or five days
later, the cows were left with "lesions exactly the same" as
those discovered in the mutilated cows.

The announcement was made at a Buenos Aires news conference,
where reporters were shown a video of mice crawling through a
carcass and chomping a cow tongue on a laboratory table.
National media coverage of the mutilations has effectively ended
since the news conference.

But many experts and local veterinarians remain unconvinced by
the government-endorsed conclusion. One question the university
team has not answered is why the mice, or any scavenger for that
matter, would consume the hide around the jaw instead of first
devouring the rest of the cow's softer flesh and innards.

Another chink in the theory: Some cows have been found mutilated
hours after being seen intact, leaving scant time for the mice
to remove the organs.

Nobody, from ranchers to biologists specializing in rodents, has
ever seen mice feed on a cow carcass.

The Tandil veterinarians suggest that a demographic explosion
combined with an unusually cold winter have driven the mice to
change their diet from worms and slugs to cow flesh. But in many
cases, witnesses have seen no signs of mice or any other
scavengers. Raising even greater doubts, the long-nosed mouse
does not inhabit the province of La Pampa, where dozens of
mutilations have been found.

The team of university and government specialists limited their
study to five counties in the province of Buenos Aires. They did
not make available the details of their investigation.

But if the mouse theory has its holes, the possibility of human
involvement seems even more unlikely. Police have found no
footprints or tire tracks near the animals. Nor are there signs
of struggle; cows killed by predators or humans usually leave
kick marks as they take their final gasps. In some cases, the
cows were discovered behind fences and locked gates or miles
from the nearest road.

Nobody has seen anyone or anything out of the ordinary, except
weird lights in the sky.

"We are totally disoriented," says Oscar Raul Arce, the chief of
the provincial police in northern La Pampa. "What is really
striking is that no clues, or prints or blood have been left.

"What's going on here is perhaps beyond our ability to

For most people out on the pampas, where cows outnumber humans
in the range of 10-to-1, something strange is responsible for
the mutilations, and it's not the long-nosed mouse.

"I'd always heard stories of people who had seen lights and
strange things," says rancher Raul Vargas, 39, standing over a
mutilated calf found the day before a half-mile from his

"But if I hadn't seen this with my own eyes, I wouldn't have
believed it."


Copyright =A9 2002, The Baltimore Sun