The difference between a pro-active UFO/paranormal investigator and one who calls themselves a UFO/paranormal investigator is training. If you want to make a difference within the field you investigate, then you must constantly strive to better educate yourself. Without increased or updated knowledge from time to time, your investigative procedures will become stagnate. I’ve met investigators who practice this and I’ve met investigators who don’t. Guess which ones are making a difference and which ones are singing the same old song but changing the pitch to confuse you. I’m sure you know a few. Where am I going with this? Well I’ll tell ya.
My research in animal mutilations eventually turned into field investigations. That’s usually the direction you want to go, study, learn, then attack. Any good soldier will tell you without study and learning, the attack would not only be useless but idiotic. After my first couple of cattle mutilation investigations, I needed to learn more about the animal’s anatomy I was dealing with. So in 2009 I ventured to Fort Collins Colorado to the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories. I met with Colleen Duncan DVM, MSc Pathologist, and she gave me a tour of the lab and briefed me on the types of procedures they can perform on deceased animals. This is very important. If you want to take samples from a possible animal mutilation case to a lab, you better know what type of samples they prefer and what type of procedural analysis they can perform which can help you with your case. To blindly take samples and hope for the best is not only foolish but are the traits of an amateur.
While I was there in 2009 not only did I learn something, but so did the good doctor and her students. I gave a presentation on cattle mutilations so the veterinary students knew where I was coming from and what I needed to learn from their services.
Jump to 2011.
The first week of 2011 was very exciting for me. I had the opportunity to go back to Fort Collins and visit the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories. Not only did I give an updated lecture on animal mutilations to the new students there, but this time I had lab access.
Don’t I look dapper in the brown scrubs?
Boy was I excited. After signing waivers, being briefed on sanitary procedures, donning my lab jump suit, and putting on my rubber boots, I was introduced to the lab environment of necropsy.
Necropsy: An autopsy performed on an animal.
(Due to policies of CSU, no photographs were allowed to be taken while on the lab floor. Besides you probably wouldn’t want to see what I saw.)
As I walked onto the lab floor it wasn’t hard to notice the adult horse off to the left center of the room among the other animals there. A large ceiling hoist lay motionless above it. The animal had been recently euthanized due to an injury to its right front leg. More on the horse’s injuries later. The veterinary students had just started the necropsy procedures and were completing the skinning of the animal. I walked over with Colleen to observe and learn. Being treated as a student, Colleen explained the procedures to me in “Doc Speak” which from time to time needed to be translated into “Chuck Speak”. Very educated and very impressive, Colleen is definitely on top of her game.
Now if you ever get to experience and help with a necropsy, make sure you have a stomach for it. I’ve not only seen dead animals in the past but dead humans as well, so I was well prepared for this visual and malodorous experience. Yet to see a dead animal lay before me as I’ve seen in past mutilation cases, I have to pause for a somber moment and think about that life which is not living. But it’s nice to know the main purpose of this facility is to determine either cause of death or cause of injury and then learn from it. Thus the information can be forwarded to the animal’s owner which can help the survival of not only their other animals but other owner’s animals as well.
Back to the necropsy. Ok.. One thing I’ve noticed with some large animal mutilations I’ve investigated, is the damage to the rib cage. Broken ribs viewed as if the animal was dropped from a great height or as if the ribs were just snapped off. I have always wondered how hard it was to break them. Well the students showed me. One student was using three foot long bolt cutters to cut through the rib cage to get to the lungs and heart. And it wasn’t an easy task. Well so much for scavenger damage doing straight and precise cuts. (Unless they had bolt cutters.)
Once the rib cage was opened the collapsed lungs and heart were exposed. Did you know “depending on the horse” that the heart is about the size of a soccer ball? Oh yeah it’s ginormous, and after the heart was removed from its cavity, Colleen instructed me on dissection techniques. Now it was my turn.
Why would I be so interested in the animal’s heart? What can you learn from it? First a little bit of info on this animal’s heart. (Sorry, that’s how I roll.)
Note: The average horse’s heart weighs at least 1% of the total body weight. An average 1000 pound horse has a heart weighing in the neighborhood of 8 to 10 pounds! The heart rate is 20 to 30 beats per minute at rest and could have a maximum rate of 240 beats at a gallop. This increased heart rate of nearly 10 times the resting rate is what makes this animal one hell of an athlete. The heart consists of four chambers with two large chambers, the left and right ventricles. The left ventricle is larger than the right which pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body, and the right ventricle supplies charged carbon dioxide blood to the lungs.
One significant occurrence in animal mutilation cases is the lack of blood seen. The blood appears to have been removed from the animal before the precision cuts are performed. Without opening up the animal to determine if this is factual, the best we can do is look for pooling. The lower cavity of the animal could have pooling even after drainage due to secreted blood from veins and tissue. But if an animal has had its blood removed, the one place to find this smoking gun is in the heart.
As the animal dies the last remaining pumps of the heart will fill its chambers full of blood. Once the animal is deceased the blood within the chambers sits and starts to immediately thicken into a dark gelatin-like substance. Dissecting the animal’s heart will determine if the animal had been bled out.
Colleen instructed me on the proper procedures to dissect the heart starting by cutting through the right auricle and the AVC and PVC. (Anterior Vena Cava and Posterior Vena Cava, arteries) This was done to check for any abnormalities within their walls. Then I proceeded to cut into the left ventricle opening its chamber into a large flap. The left ventricle is the largest side of the heart and is at least three times thicker than the right ventricle. This is due to the tremendous work load it has to perform. Once opening the left ventricle, I had to clear away the coagulated blood gel which had pooled in the chamber at death. This is normal for an animal which has died with the majority of its 10 gallons of blood still combined within the body. If the animal’s blood was removed as seen in mutilation cases, then the left ventricle chamber would be empty and thus creating an anomaly.
Checking the heart of mutilated animals would be great evidence that the animal was void of blood before the mutilation took place. This in one of the situations I wanted to convey to the good doctors at CSU while performing the dissection. This particular animal had a healthy heart and both ventricles were normal for a horse its age. Other techniques I experienced were the proper procedures for removing organs from the body, checking for any physical abnormalities, and the proper places to retrieve blood for analysis.
As I said earlier in this blog, the animal had an injured leg. The leg was removed; void of flesh, and the leg bone was sawed down the middle to the hoof to view the injury. It appeared the Navicular bone was damaged. This bone, the size of your thumb nail, sits near the base of the front hoof. It’s incredible that such a small bone could cause the death of a horse this size. Out of the 205 bones that make up a horse’s entire body, 80 of them are located in its legs. Also 60 to 65 percent of the entire horse’s weight rests on its front legs; that’s why most of its injuries happen there. It’s almost impossible to successfully attach an artificial limb there, so alas animals with these kinds of conditions are usually euthanized.
For every bad thing which happens, there can be some good. The experience of watching and participating in a necropsy of such a large animal gives me a new insight of the internal functionality of the animal. This will definitely help me with my next horse mutilation case. What will also help me is; the understanding of the types of procedures performed at the lab while looking for causes of death. This is huge for the mutilation phenomenon, to have an investigator work so closely with a state of the art, nationally known, veterinary school and all the talented staff there within. This is more than a dream come true and definitely an honor to be a part of. I can only hope the next case I get called on enables me to get the animal to the lab in a reasonable amount of time so the talented team at the lab will have a good opportunity to try and find the anomalies we’re looking for.
What anomalies? That’s easy, anything out of the ordinary… and the staff is ready and willing to take on this unusual challenge.
For more information on what CSU’s veterinary lab can do, goto http://www.dlab.colostate.edu/ (You will be impressed!)