Something is murdering cows in Colorado’s San Luis Valley and nobody knows what is doing it, how or why.

This has been going on for decades, since the age of Jimi Hendrix and the early Apollo missions, at least — perhaps even longer.

In fact, the problem has gotten so out of hand over the years that Colorado’s mysterious case of “animal mutilations” has become America’s largest unsolved case of animal cruelty — the ranchers who discover their butchered cattle (and sometimes horses, goats and pigs) are baffled; and the police who investigate these bizarre scenes can only shrug and scratch their buzzcuts. Not even paranormal investigators, who have been studying these incidents for years, can offer any definite explanation.

Because, these high-country bovines aren’t just being killed — they are being utterly mangled: dismantled, dismembered, dissected with surgical precision, drained of blood, stripped of their organs and discarded like used tissues.

And the perpetrators? They have never been seen or caught in the act and they have never left any clues, tracks or hints as to their identity.

The only thing that seems totally clear is that these animals are not dying of natural causes.

Before you go turning the page because this sounds like an Onion article, let me assure you: this is not satirical. This is not “fake news.” This is a legitimate, unexplained Colorado mystery that has puzzled people in his state for a long, long time.

So, if you needed another reason to “Storm Area 51” on September 20th, here’s one you can add to the list.


Of course, these mutilations aren’t happening just anywhere in Colorado. They’re concentrated in a region of this state that is famous for its UFO sightings and paranormal strangeness: the San Luis Valley.

If you’ve ever been to that part of the state — where sand dunes drift and needle peaks jab up at the sky, you know, it’s an odd place. The valley itself is scattered with spiritual centers, pot farms and cattle ranches; people are scarce and law enforcement, scarcer, and bizarre Native American apocalypse myths adorn the land.

Over the years there have been so many UFO sightings in this particular valley, that there is a local UFO watchtower and information center just off the highway.

Some call it Colorado’s Roswell.

So, I started asking around. Around the San Luis Valley; around Crestone, Alamosa and Trinidad and sooner rather than later, I got ahold of a rancher by the name of Mike Duran, a Trinidad local who’s lost more than one cow to something he simply can’t explain.

“The first one happened in 1996,” he tells me. He vividly recalls discovering that first cow a long way from where he’d corralled it up the night prior, laying strangely in an irrigation ditch.

“It was on its back with its legs up in the air and what I noticed was they had removed all the teats and the vaginal area and the cow’s horns, which are very, very hard to take off, those were maybe 20 or 30 feet from the cow.

“That was the first time,” Duran recalls. The sheriff came, took a look, shrugged and told him it had to have been some kind of predator. “I’m like, ‘yeah right,” scoffs Duran. “If it was a predator, it must have gone to Harvard Medical School.”

The cuts Duran saw on that cow weren’t even knife-like, he says, but more akin to a laser cutter, leaving extremely precise incisions and cauterizing the skin. The cow’s blood was completely drained and scavengers — like crows, magpies and vultures — which would normally be all over a fresh cattle corpse — wouldn’t come near the dead animal.

Which sounds like something out of an L. Ron Hubbard book, or a B science-fiction film. Where’s the proof, goddamnit?! Many are probably wondering. How can you believe someone’s word on such an outlandish and insane sounding claim? How can you take this all at face?

Because we don’t have to. Because, thirteen years later, on a very windy night in 2009, it happened again.

And this time, Duran called in the experts.


“When I saw that second cow the first thing I thought was, ‘They’re back…’” Duran recalls.

He immediately contacted the police, but this time, he also reached out to a number of paranormal investigators. He wasn’t about to leave any stone unturned; he wanted to know what in tarnation was happening to his heifers.

One of those investigative experts was Chuck Zukowski. Who not only took photos (which are posted at the bottom of this article) of Duran’s second cattle mutilation, but measured the radiation levels in the area and ran some chemical tests. He even collected several of the corpses and drove them all the way to Fort Collins, to CSU’s veterinary department to have necropsies (animal autopsies) done on them.

“2009 was almost like a flood of events.” Says Zukowski. “It was almost as if there was a wave.”

Zukowski has been studying this stuff for a long time. He’s local paranormal investigator, UFO-ologist and former reserve deputy of El Paso County. He has his own show on the Travel Channel, called “Alien Highway,” which follows his investigations of animal mutilations and other UFO events that law enforcement doesn’t give the time of day.

When Duran contacted Zukowski, he’d been traveling throughout the San Luis Valley, investigating any and every cattle mutilation he could get access to. And that year he was unusually busy.

“I did eight cases within a week and a half period,” he says — more than he has ever seen in such a short time.

And after inspecting so many of these mutilations, Zukowski says he has started to notice some disturbing commonalities between them.

“The first thing you notice is that this animal is laying there and there’s absolutely no indication of movement. There’s no scuff marks.” Says Zukowski. “When an animal dies, it normally kicks and fights for its last few breaths — but not these animals.”

Even in those cases where the mutilated critter was discovered in mud or snow, Zukowski says there are never any tracks, blood spills or other evidence that the animal was killed in the same location where its body is discovered. He believes that the cows are picked up, transported, used and then later returned, dead as doornails; placed on the ground intentionally, rather than dropped from a height.

And these incidents don’t seem to be random, according to Zukowski.

“It appears the same rancher gets hit over and over again throughout the years,” Zukowski says.
 “Even though they are surrounded by other ranchers in the area.”

As for the cow corpses Zukowski drove to CSU? The university scientists who performed the necropsies found that some of the animals had collapsed hearts, suggesting that the creatures were drained of blood first — until their pulmonary systems caved in — then the incisions and dissections were made.

“There’s no hemorrhaging around the cut marks.” Explains Zukowski. “Meaning it wasn’t bleeding… That means the animal wasn’t living at the time — or, at least, the heart wasn’t pumping blood at the time.”

And to Zukowski, that indicates a certain level of compassion. “That made me feel a little bit better because it meant the cow wasn’t going through a lot of suffering… They bled it out, it died, and then they cut it up.”

So, the cows are dealing with merciful slaughterers. That’s nice. But the real nut of this mystery remains untouched: What could possibly be doing this to these cows? How is it doing it? And WHY?


The speculative answers to those questions have been almost as eccentric and unbelievable as the mutilations themselves:

Some attribute it to arcane animal sacrificing cults, who perform their bloodletting ceremonies under the cover of darkness and in impenetrable secrecy. Others claim that it is doubtlessly the government, running stealthy weapons experiments, or putting deep special ops through intensive initiation tests.

Oddly, it’s the UFO community who is offering the most down to Earth explanation: alien abductors.

But even extraterrestrial enthusiasts, like Zukowski, can’t quite put their finger on why aliens would want our cows and farm animals… Do they just make for easy targets? Have extraterrestrials developed a taste for bovine reproductive organs? Or are they collecting genetic material to fashion bio-robotic-spy-animals that could watch us forever without ever being pegged for surveillance heifers?

Zukowski has no answers. All he’s sure of, is that this has been happening for a very long time.

“I came across a newspaper article from Missouri from back in the late 1800’s,” Zukowski explains. “There was a UFO sighting and the family on the farm… they were terrified. They stayed in their house all night and thought it was the end of the world.”

The article he’s referencing describes “flashing lights” that “stayed in a circle as if they were all strung together like beads.” The saucer-like object hovered over the family’s barn and they retreated, terrified, to their house. In the morning, the father discovered three steers, dead and drained of blood. Just like what Mike Duran found in ‘96 and ‘09, and just like what Chuck Zukowski has seen almost every year since.

“We actually have a newspaper article going back to the late 1800’s — so that tells you… well, it’s not our military.”

In fact, there is only one explanation that no one is seriously proposing: that these mutilations are the result of some natural cause. No wild animal or force of nature that we know of can anatomize a cow with such precision and scrupulousness. And if some dark underground cult was truly responsible, there surely would have been evidence at some point of foul play. Especially considering the scope and timescale of this phenomena.

“Since 1967 we’ve estimated close to 10,000 cases across the United States.” Zukowski says. And he points out, that is just in the US — incidents of animal mutilation have been reported around the world.

Just last year, Zukowski investigated three separate mutilation scenes, at different ranches throughout the San Luis Valley. One rancher he spoke with said that they’d had at least 14 mysterious mutilation deaths in the last 15 years, almost one every year.

And, in every single instance, where police officers are unable to find evidence of a natural cause of death — like a predator or a lightning strike or some disease — the cops list it as an instance of “animal cruelty”. Which has, over the years, mounted to become the largest unsolved animal cruelty case in American history.

Still, despite the record of these unusual episodes, there are no clear answers. There’s no knowing who, how or why. Which, might be the most unsettling aspect of the whole situation.

“The majority of the ranchers I’ve dealt with are either second or third generation ranchers.” Explains Zukowski. “So, they’ve been doing this for a long time — and their fathers and grandfathers have been, too — so they’re very familiar with a natural death of an animal. What scares them is when you can’t understand or reason why this animal is dead.”

“It’s just somethin’ weird,” Duran says, contemplating the nature of these bizarre mutilations. “Just somethin’ unexplainable.”







[cover photo from Pexels // body photos courtesy Chuck Zukowski // originally published March 20, 2018]