Sounds like it's time to call in the X-Files' Lone Gunmen.
A string of bizarre cattle mutilations in north-central Montana has authorities so stumped that a sheriff's department has asked for help from a UFO study group.
Since mid-June, ranchers in Dupuyer and Fort Shaw have reported four gruesome and baffling cattle deaths in which portions of the animals' faces were cut or peeled off and eyeballs and genitals were removed. The animals had not been shot, and investigators say whoever is responsible left few clues behind.
The killings resemble a series of cattle deaths in the 1970s in the same general area, in which more than 60 cattle in five counties were found mutilated. Those cases remain unsolved, and prompted speculation at the time from some that the deaths were the work of aliens or satanic cults.
To get to the bottom of the current cattle mystery, the Pondera Country Sheriff's Department has contacted the National Institute for Discovery Science in Las Vegas, which describes itself as a research organization that studies a variety of unconventional scientific theories.
NIDS investigated the 1970s cattle mutilations, and Deputy Administrator Colm Kelleher said its research found a correlation between the animal killings and UFO sightings around Malmstrom Air Force Base. He confirmed Tuesday that the sheriff's office contacted the institute for help.
"They'd heard about some of our previous research from a retired deputy sheriff in that area," he said.
But despite his department's call for help, Dan Campbell, a deputy with the Pondera County Sheriff's Department, believes humans are responsible, although their motives remain unclear.
"I don't believe in little green men," he said. "I think 500 people have asked me, 'Well, what's doing it?' If I knew, I would get it in the paper."
Even Kelleher said the cattle mutilations might not rise to the level of an X-Files episode.
"Just because we found a statistical linkage between UFO sightings and animal mutilation, we are not drawing a direct link," he said. "We are completely undecided as to the perpetrators of these mutilations."
The Associated Press contributed to this report
"Bubba Tub" 1977 K-10 350,Th350,Np203 D60/14ff 4.56's Detroit Rear. 7" lift, 39.5/16.5 Swamper TSL's.