Friday, January 06, 2006

Fields of Fear - Teaser #2

At left is a photo from "Maggots, Mutilations and myth: Patterns of postmortem scavenging of the bovine carcass" by P. Nick Nation (Animal Health Division, Alberta Agriculture) and Elisabeth S. Williams (Wyoming State Veterinary laboratory, University of Wyoming), Canadian Veterinary Journal, Volume 30, September 1989, pp. 742 - 747. The article, and the conclusions of the authors, is referenced in the film.

Here's a quote from the article, which is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the subject:

"A characteristic of coyote feeding is the careful and clean manner in which the hide of a carcass is peeled from the meat, leaving a white patch of subcutaneous tissue. The skin is left virtually intact and there is very little tearing or shredding. Similarly, there is a very neat appearance to the skin wound produced by coyotes during their feeding. In contrast, they leave ragged edges on the underlying muscle and tendons. Coyotes pull off mouthfuls of food without bracing their feet against the carcass."

The authors conclusions?

"The parts reported missing from mutilated cattle are the same as those known to be removed by scavengers, primarily coyotes and birds, in the early stages of scavenging a carcass."

It is a conclusion, based on rigourous scientific research, that the mutologists rarely, if ever, reference.

Paul Kimball


Old Gary said...

I am wondering just WHAT exactly causes a rancher to call the sheriff's office or other civil authority in what is called mutilation cases. Ranchers naturally are used to occasional losses to their herds and recognize predator and scavenger habits. WHAT causes them to report these cases that are called mutilations? WHAT is different about these in relation to normal deaths? Do ranchers report EVERY death in their herds as mutilations?

Paul Kimball said...

Old Gary:

The VAST majority of ranchers do not call in mutology investigators when their animals die and then are hit by scavengers. This is one of the great myths of mutology - that there is some great wave of mutes over the years (ask someone where the 10,000 mutes number came from in the 1970s, and why it hasn't really increased since). Some ranchers have reported cases, but that number is a VERY small minority of all ranchers (remember, there are lots of ranchers and farmers out there). As to why, the odd hoax, insurance scam, etc., as Kevin suggested, but most of them are simply misidentifications by people who one would assume would know better, but they do not - primarily because their job is to raise cattle and get them to market, not animal pathology.

I believe it was Ken Rommel who asked the following question: when a rancher or a police officer tells you that a cut was made with surgical precision, as if by a laser, the first question you should ask them is, "How many surgeries have you observed, and how many lasers have you ever seen used?"

And Star Wars doesn't count. :-)