EPA report on mysterious cattle deaths at Area 51

Apparently, in June of 1977 Area 51 had a problem with mysterious cattle deaths. The EPA was notified and investigated, but were unable to figure out why these six cows died.

The documents were found by UFO researcher Shepherd Johnson via the digital archives of Congressional ProQuest. The document was difficult to read so I transcribed the document below.

According to the report, the animals had sufficient food and water, and there were no apparent signs of struggle or trauma. The cattle mutilation phenomenon, which was very common in the southwest during the late 70s, usually entailed the animals having strange cuts and missing organs. That does not appear to be the case with these cows.

However, it is apparent by the tone of the report that the investigator was at a loss as to explain how these cows died. The water samples they refer to collecting came back without any toxins. It appears this case was never solved.

Here is the report:



Date: June 23, 1977

Reply to:

Attention of: MSF

Subject: Field investigation of dead cattle in Area 51

To: The files

On June 20, Mr. Jerry Doran, off-site monitor , MOR, was informed by Area 51 security personnel, of  a recent series of deaths among the cattle that wander onto the Area 51 complex from the herds of Mr. Steve Modlin who ranches to the east. The security personnel had noted six carcasses within the past two weeks.

After consultation with Mr. Ernest D. Campbell of ERDA/NV, it was decided that Mr. Doran and I should investigate and attempt to determine the cause or the causes of the death of these animals. We arrived at the Area 51 complex at 100 hours on June 21 and talked to security personnel (Mr. Krause). They furnished us with a map showing the locations of the carcasses (see enclosure). They stated that numbers 1, 4, and 5 had been noted about two weeks before and the remaining animals had died within the last week (probably since Friday).

No animals had been note to be sick. Water was readily avaialble at the Area 51 recreation lake and at a corral approximately one mile beyond the east gate. Water had also been available for the last several weeks due to rain runoff on the dry lake bed.

Mr. Doran and I examined each of the carcasses. In all Cases, petrifaction was so advanced to make a necropsy or sample collection impractical. A description of each carcass is as follows:

  1. Animal Number 1: An aged Hereford cow in advanced state of decay (estimate of two weeks) located on edge of dry lake bed. No visible signs of trauma or agonal struggling. Brand on left side indecipherable.
  2. Animal Number 2: Brahman-cross cow with brand D/4 on left side. Estimated dead one week. Age unknown as could not see teeth for maggots. No signs of trauma or agonal struggling.
  3. Animal Number 3: Four- to five-year-old Brahman-cross cow. About same stage of decay as number 2. No visible signs of trauma or agonal struggling. Same brand as number 2.
  4. Animal Number 4: Aged Hereford cow lying on dry lake bed. Advanced decomposition of carcass indicated death about two weeks ago. No signs of agonal struggling or trauma. Water sample collected from lake bed about 100 yards from the animal.
  5. Animal number 5: Aged Hereford cow in advanced stage of decomposition. Desiccation of carcass had begun which indicated it had been dead about two weeks. Again no signs of agonal struggling or trauma.
  6. Animal number 6: Hereford cow dead within last week. Too many maggots to examine teeth. Some slight signs of struggling by rear feet.

All six of these animals were lying on sides with neck and head extended and four feet fully extended. no signs of trauma or agonal struggling were visible. My impression was all animals dies suddenly.

An Angus bull in the same area appeared normal and was in good condition. Graze appeared adequate. Drinking water was readily available. Area 51 personnel denied any severe electrical storms in the last few week. No Poisonous plants were noted except for scattered Halogeton along the roadways.

Water samples were collected at the dry lake bed and the recreational lake and were submitted for analyses. Area 51personnel were asked to report any other deaths to me promptly so a necropsy could be made.

Security personnel were going to notify Mr. Medlin of the deaths of his cattle that evening and secure his permission to bury them.

The cause or causes of death of these six animals was not readily apparent. Possible causes might include one or more of the following:

  1. Lightning strikes – Not too likely in so many different locations as different times.
  2. Trauma – (vehicle or bullets) – no external evidence.
  3. Toxins – toxic plants not overly abundant. Water sources have been used for years previously. However, Mr. John Titus, EPA employee, said that when he was seventeen he rode for a cattle company that ran cattle over the Groom Lake area, and that about 30 to 40 cattle died whose deaths were attributed to drinking the water standing on the dry lake bed after the rain. Water samples were collected for analyses.
  4. Infectious disease – no history of sickness – other animals in area appear healthy.
  5. Starvation – good graze, readily available water.
  6. Metabolic disturbances – bloat, grass tetany, etc., not likely.

Hopefully, if any other deaths occur, a more prompts investigation will shed more light on the causation agent.

Donald D. Smith
Chief, Farm and Animal
Investigation Branch
Monitoring Systems Research
and Development Division
cc: w/ enclosure
Dr. R.E. Stanley, MSD
Mr. E.D. Campbell, ERDA/NV
Mr. G.V. Doran, MOR
Mr. C.F. Costa, MOR
Map of cow carcasses provided by Area 51 personnel to EPA investigators.

You can download the file here. You will find the Area 51 report on page 28.

Header image of cow near Area 51 from www.chimana.co.

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