HUERFANO — “Everybody out here has been very, very excited since this whole thing started. It’s all kinda creepy.” The “whole thing” that rancher Robert Wolf was referring to is the current rash of so-called cattle mutilations and other strange occurrences that have been reported at the Turkey Ridge sub-division about 13 miles northeast of Walsenburg. Between August 8th and August 17th, eight unexplained cattle deaths have been reported to the Huerfano County Sheriff’s Department. The total estimated loss for the animals’ owners is estimated to be about $14,000. The first hint of trouble in paradise was the discovery of two dead Black Angus steers at 6 am Friday morning, August 8th. Robert Wolf and his neighbor and fellow rancher Ty Edmundson were delivering water to Edmundson’s herd when they came across the grisly scene. The two 26-month-old steers were both lying on their right sides about 30 feet apart with
their heads pointed north “definitely mutilated,” Edmundson said. Even more disconcerting to Edmundson was the fact that both animals were mutilated in identical fashion: “both of them looked exactly the same. According to Ty Edmundson: “The rectum was cut out, just a perfect circle… and a circle where their testicles would have been… there was also a circular cut around where the penis would normally have come out, and the penis was gone. He further noted that both steers were missing their tongues. Beaver Edmundson, Ty’s father and long-time local rancher, examined the animals later that morning and noticed that a thin strip of flesh about six inches long had been removed from one of the steers’ lower lip with “a pretty slick cut”. Beaver said that the two 1,100-lb. animals were in perfect health and were “fat and sassy”. These were premium grass-fed animals and were worth at least $2,000 each, Beaver added. As with all eight of the suspicious cattle deaths, the steers appeared to have simply “dropped dead”. There were no signs of struggle or the thrashing scuffs of animals in their death throes, typically characteristic of livestock that die of natural causes, such as disease, rattlesnake bites, predator attacks and poisonous plants. “I’ve seen a jillion natural deaths and nothing even resembles this,” Ty Edmundson said.
Not their first rodeo
Although no vet was called to examine the animals, the Edmundsons did call the Sheriff’s Department. Undersheriff David McCain agreed to meet Beaver Edmundson later that day at the site. According to Edmundson, McCain looked the scene over carefully and took photos. Edmundson aked McCain what he thought had happened to the steers: “McCain just shook his head slowly and said ‘I really don’t know.’“ McCain recounted his investigation of three mutilated cows belonging to Ermenio Andreatta near La Veta in October of 1994. Ermenio’s wife, Theresa, told the Rocky Mountain News at the time: “It looks like they used a real sharp instrument. There were no tracks on the ground around them and no signs of a struggle. It just looked like they was dropped.” The same article quoted Deputy Sheriff McCain: “I don’t know what happened to them or how they died, but to me, no predator killed these animals.” Beaver Edmundson, who runs cattle on about 90,000 acres in the area, told McCain this wasn’t his first rodeo either. In 1985, Beaver had found one of his cows mutilated on land he was leasing on Yellowstone Road not far from La Veta. As he told the story: “ I saw her laying square on her back, on her backbone, with her hind legs splayed out. I thought that was unusual. When I got up to her I could see that her udder was completely gone, cut out in a perfect circle.” Like many ranchers, Edmundson did not call in a vet or report the incident. “I kinda had the mindset at the time that publicity just encourages copycats.” Edmundson was skeptical (then and now) that lab tests would provide any answers to the mystery. On August 9th, Dennis Thompson, one of Robert Wolf’s neighbors, called Wolf to inform him that one of Wolf’s heifers was lying dead near Thompson’s fence line. Citing health and disease issues, Thompson asked that Wolf remove the carcass as soon as possible. Wolf, who was out of town at the time, called Ty Edmundson and asked that he drag the animal away. When Edmundson arrived at the scene he was shocked at the animal’s condition: “The heifer had the rectum and the vagina cut out of it in one big cut. It was also missing its tongue.” Robert Wolf was not pleased with the news and promptly called the cow’s owner, Tim Reed, in Fowler, Colorado. Reed owns a large-scale ranching operation, running cattle in several western states. He employs Robert Wolf as the caretaker for his Huerfano herd. At any given time, Wolf tends about 400 yearlings as part of Reed’s operations. Edmundson and Wolf speculated the heifer’s death might have happened at the same time the two steers met their demise. All the cattlemen agreed that heightened vigilance was in order and the next few days passed without incident.
The calm before the storm?
It was the proverbial calm before the storm. While making his rounds on Saturday, August 16th, Robert Wolf was dismayed to find four more of Tim Reed’s heifers dead “real close to each other” with no cause of death apparent. Wolf immediately called the sheriff’s office which quickly dispatched Deputy Sheriff Clint Boehler to the scene in the vicinity of County Roads #120 and #122. This time the only thing missing from the downed heifers were the tongues. As Deputy Boehler’s incident report states: “Due to the surgical type of mutilation… lightning was ruled out. Boehler noted that “it was apparent that the parts had been removed with a sharp instrument.” The incident was classified as Animal Cruelty (Bovine Excision). Boehler concluded that the investigation was ongoing and there was “no evidence of motive or suspects.” In his incident report, Deputy Boehler had mentioned what were possibly tracks made by a “4 wheeler type machine”. Robert Wolf disagrees with this observation; “There really wasn’t. I could not see it. All I saw was the yearling’s tracks.” Both men agreed there were no human footprints in the vicinity. After Deputy Boehler’s visit, Robert Wolf called Tim Reed to discuss Boehler’s findings. Reed decided he should come and see for himself what was going on out at Turkey Ridge. Reed made arrangements with Fowler veterinarian, Terry Root, to visit the scene the next day. Reed wanted Dr. Root to perform complete autopsies on the four downed animals and collect samples for lab testing. One of a cattleman’s worst fears is a disease which could quickly decimate a herd.
Vultures party down
While waiting for Tim Reed and Dr. Root to arrive on Sunday, August 17th, Robert Wolf went about his usual rounds, watering and checking on the animals in his care. Around mid-day, Wolf drove up one of his familiar roads to tend to some of the herd. Driving back down the road about two hours later, Wolf was shocked and amazed to see one of his yearlings lying dead in plain sight about 30 feet off the road. He stopped and examined the animal carefully. He could see no signs of mutilation. The tongue was still intact. Continuing his chores, Wolf stopped and looked at the cow two more times in the next couple of hours. It was still totally intact. Shortly before 5 p.m., when Wolf was to meet the vet at the carcass site, he arrived at the scene to find three vultures busily going after the cow’s tongue. One vulture had the animal’s tongue pulled out and the other two were furiously picking at it. As Wolf said: “They had it chewed up pretty bad and what they were doing was definitely not producing a smooth cut. It was very ragged.” When Dr. Root arrived, he did a “postmortem” on the fresh carcass as well as the four animals he had originally been called out to examine. According to Robert Wolf, Dr. Root cut back the jaws on the animals to determine the nature of the tongue removals. Wolf later said that, according to the vet, “on all four of the yearlings, it looked like it had been done with a smooth cut, like with a knife.”
The spectre of anthrax
When contacted by phone on August 22nd, Tim Reed stated he didn’t want to comment on the situation until all the lab results were in: “I don’t think it was disease related at all. They are too good a cattle. We’re not sure if it was lightening, or somebody shooting them or something else.” With a sigh of relief, Reed said, “The one thing we do know so far is that they didn’t have anthrax.” Tim Reed had every reason to be relieved. One thing cattlemen do not want to contend with is the scourge of a deadly anthrax outbreak. Above average rainfall this summer in parts of Huerfano County has revived long-dry ponds creating ideal conditions for anthrax spores to activate. The spores can lie dormant in the soil for up to 70 years. An anthrax epidemic swept through six Huerfano ranches in the fall of 1976, killing at least 56 head of cattle, and 50 head of cattle died from anthrax as recently as August, 2012 on a Sterling, Colorado ranch. The Sterling area was also the epicenter for the great Colorado mutilation wave of 1975, with 70 reported cases during that year. Incidentally, the first mutilation cases in Huerfano County began to be reported in 1975, about a year before the 1976 outbreak. Also, it is well-known that since WWII, virtually all of the world’s aspiring superpowers have actively researched methods for weaponizing anthrax.
Bullets and darts
Tim Reed’s conjecture that perhaps his six dead cattle had been shot gave Robert Wolf an idea. Wolf obtained a metal detector and set about doing his own experiment on the dead animals. According to Wolf, “On every heifer the detector would beep and come up to a 6-7-8 reading in the hip, just the hip.” Tests on the first two Edmundson Black Angus steers, oddly enough, gave no reading at all. Wolf, who loads his own ammunition, strewed several kinds of bullets on the ground. He got the same 6-7-8 reading from the bullets. A vet and several experienced observers have now looked “high and low” on the animals and have failed to find any bullet holes. “I don’t think they got shot, if anything it was some kind of dart and you’re never going to find a dart hole,” Wolf said. Next Wolf tested needles used to give shots to cows and again got the 6-7-8 reading. His research on tranquilizers and darts indicated that they usually break off in the animal. Thus far, Dr. Root’s forensics have yielded no bullets or darts. Tim Reed is now looking at ways of “getting an X-ray over the animals.” Another possible clue worth noting is that, other than some fairly minor bird action, no predators had scavenged the carcasses – even two weeks after their deaths. The cattlemen found this very unusual. All agreed that coyotes would have the bodies “torn to pieces” within a day or two of their deaths. The puzzling exception to this rule was the heifer that was found on the Dennis Thompson fence line. Again, oddly enough, it was the only one of Reed’s six animals to show more than one characteristic of a “classic” mutilation. The other five were only missing their tongues.
Bring in the unusual suspects
For the moment, all is calm on Turkey Ridge. But is it yet another calm before the storm? As Beaver Edmundson puts it, “I’m not sure this is over, but I’m hoping that it is.” The lull has allowed area residents a little more time for reflection and theorizing about what’s behind the recent weirdness. Like many communities who have experienced the wrath of “the mutilators”, the theories tend to fall into the familiar litany of “saucers, Satanists or CIA”. Thus far, the most discussed possible culprit and motive seems to be the military or some covert government group testing new hardware and exotic technologies. “My gut tells me that it’s probably the military. They’ve got those drones now,” Ty Edmundson said.
I just can’t believe they would do that
Cindy Driscoll, who lives with her husband Dave at the edge of the Cucharas Reservoir, is not big on conspiracy theories but says, “I would not put anything past this administration, or any administration really.” Cindy and Dave maintain their own airstrip and have two airplanes. Cindy said they see the big C-130 cargo planes and helicopters fly by all the time, frequently at very low altitudes. “I just wave at them,” she said. She also said the frequency of overflights has significantly increased “since all this stuff started”. Cindy noted that her neighborhood had been experiencing several power outages a day in recent weeks. Robert Wolf points out the area lies on a direct flight path between Ft. Carson and the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site to the south. “People here are used to all the flyovers. It’s kinda neat to watch them sometimes, “ Wolf said. He agreed there had been a lot more activity in recent weeks. Wolf hears all the talk about possible military involvement with the mutilations but says, “I just can’t believe they would do that, that’s all.” Wolf then notes that some recent troubling events are “swaying me toward the military theory.”
Black helicopters and powerful spotlights
On Wednesday evening, August 20th, Wolf was just stepping out of the shower when he heard his wife Barbara yelling for him to “come look at this helicopter!” Robert made it outside in time to see “a little black helicopter, with no apparent markings, dipping down into Cucharas Canyon. The helicopter would pop up and then dip out of sight into the canyon. It did this repeatedly as it made its way slowly south toward the Cucharas Reservoir and eventually disappeared from sight. Wolf thought it was a bit odd, but not that out of the ordinary. Later that evening, things took a turn toward the downright scary. Barbara awoke at about midnight to a bedroom that was “totally lit up”. Robert got up and made it to the sliding door in time to see four large helicopters “within 100 feet of the house”. Wolf said they were staggered a little bit, two side by side, then two more side by side. The lead helicopter was “sweeping the ground” with a powerful spotlight. Robert later said the events of that day made him realize “they could come and take you out of bed before you even knew what happened.” The helicopter incident jogged his memory into a recollection of how he had heard heavy helicopter activity late at night about two weeks previously, possibly even the night of the first mutilations. He just had not put the two events together in his mind until the evening of August 20th. Earlier that week, the Edmundson family had experienced their own sightings of flying strangeness. On Sunday evening, August 17th, the day that the last mysterious cattle death occurred, Macey Edmundson saw 12 to 15 unidentified objects in the eastern sky. At about 8:30 p.m., Macey (the 14-year-old daughter of Ty and Kassi) called for her parents to come and check out what she was seeing. The objects appeared to move and then hover in place. Ty said the objects were flashing red, blue and white lights, “they seemed kind of circular, a saucer shape is what it looked like,” Ty said. The objects moved toward the northeast and eventually disappeared behind a cloud bank. Despite his sighting of the unidentified “craft”, Edmundson doesn’t put much credence in the alien theory of mutilations. Nor does Robert Wolf: “As far as aliens and stuff, That’s out of the picture.” Cindy Driscoll doesn’t exactly rule out the possibility: “I’m not sure I think it’s people coming down from saucers, but if somebody has pictures…”
The full moon was when the nuts came out
The old warhorse “Satanic cult” theory of the mutilations has seemingly fallen into disfavor. Cindy Driscoll, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, said the mutilations “don’t fit the pattern of cults that practice animal sacrifice.” She thought it might be significant that the first animal deaths occurred two nights before the so-called Super Moon became full. “I worked on the psych floor for nine years and we all knew that the full moon was when the nuts came out.” On the far end of the theory spectrum, one seasoned ranch woman said: “I can’t help but think that we have no knowledge of… it’s kinda frightening to think that we might be targeted by these aliens or spiritual beings coming from another dimension. I look at these dead carcasses and I get to thinking that there’s a logical way to explain this, but what is it?” As Robert Wolf astutely puts it: “ It’s a matter of what you believe. If you believe it’s the government, you get government answers. If you believe it’s aliens, you get alien answers. If you believe it’s all being done by predators, you get predator answers.”
Lasers: commercial aircraft targeted
One final note on a story that is still unfolding, which may provide a valuable clue to solving the Mystery of Turkey Ridge. Embedded in Deputy Clint Boehler’s original incident report is a rather astounding bit of information. According to Deputy Boehler, in March of 2014, he was contacted shortly after midnight on a Friday night by Denver FAA Air Traffic Control. They reported that “some” commercial aircraft had been flying over Huerfano County at 32,000 feet and were hit with “a powerful laser”. ATC Denver said the same laser operation had also been reported by commercial pilots the week before. The ATC relayed the coordinates of the laser source to Deputy Boehler who drove to the site with Deputy Ben Bounds. The location was “a remote pasture off County Road 120 about 1-2 miles from where the [recent] dead cattle were found. Quite a coincidence.