Private investigator Christopher O'Brien has researched numerous cases of mutilated cattle in Colorado in the past 30 years, but a recent local discovery marks one of the first he's seen in years.
An author of books on the subject, including "Enter the Valley: UFOs, Religious Miracles, Cattle Mutilation & Other Unexplained Phenomena in the San Luis Valley," has taken note of a case of three mutilated cows in Moffat County.
Two steers and one heifer owned by rancher Jacque Osburn were killed and had their sexual organs removed sometime between Oct. 16 and 20, said authorities from the Moffat County Sheriff's Office. Deputies still are investigating the case and don't have a cause of death or an explanation.
Pictures of the animals showed that mutilations are different on each animal.
Incisions include a cut-off tongue, a partially severed ear and tail and the removal of skin around an animal's jaw and head.
Except for a reported cattle mutilation case in New Mexico in July, the dozens of cases that dotted the San Luis Valley between 1992 and 1998 have dropped off, O'Brien said.
"It's pretty rare," he said. "I haven't really had any cases for several years."
O'Brien said the mutilation cases he has investigated seem to follow similar trends: Animals have their sexual organs and various other body parts removed. Sometimes, the animal suffers huge bruises on its back. The cause of death usually goes undetermined, he said.
Some cases may be attributed to groups wanting the sexual organs for ritualistic worship, but that probably is limited to few cases that are discovered early in a series of mutilations, O'Brien said.
Highly specialized groups doing environmental controls on an area may be behind the mysterious slayings, he said. O'Brien's cases occured along a river in the San Luis Valley that was downstream from a Superfund site, he said.
"It's where the animal is," O'Brien said. "There may be a correlation there, but that does not totally rule out other agendas."
Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead could not comment on theories about the case, but said he thinks that it was an isolated incident. No cases have been reported since, he said.
"When you think of an animal mutilation case, you just think of it as a sick act," Grinstead.
The animals have been dead for too long to conduct necropsies, he said.