This was written by one of our freelance writers, Pat Raia. It seems rather appropriate that the image on the upper left-hand side of this page has a horse having an "encounter" with an alien, as you're about to read...

Earlier this year a Colorado rancher called law enforcement authorities to report that he had discovered two of his horses dead and mutilated in their pasture. Months later, investigators still disagree about what killed the animals and why.

Lt. Lari Sevene, public information officer for the El Paso, Colo., Sheriff's Department said that this summer, Rush, Colo., rancher Mike Schneider contacted authorities to report he had discovered that his yearling Paint filly and her pasturemate, a 4-year-old Rocky Mountain Horse, had been killed and mutilated sometime on Aug. 10.

"The owner said he believed the animals were killed by a laser from a military helicopter," Sevene said.

Sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene the evening of Aug. 11 and found the animals had sustained cuts and other wounds and that flesh had been torn from their bodies, Sevene said. When deputies returned to the Schneider ranch on Aug. 12 to re-examine the scene and the animals, Sevene said the horses' carcasses were significantly decomposed, but that investigators concluded both horses had suffered an animal attack.

"We have a lot of mountain lions and other predators here," Sevene said. "We believe these deaths were the result of animal activity."

But Schneider's wife, Glenda, believes the Sheriff's Department's assessment of the incident is wrong.

Mrs. Schneider said the gelding's eye, tongue, genitalia, and anal cavity appeared to have been surgically removed, possibly by a laser like instrument. The filly had sustained similar injuries.

"No way this was an animal attack," she said. "There was no blood, no marks on the ground, no footprints. This had to have happened from above."

So the Schneiders sought the opinion of Chuck Zukowski, a volunteer El Paso County Sheriff’s Department deputy who also independently investigates unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and other paranormal activity. After examining the animals' carcasses and the incident scene, he also disagrees with the Department's findings.

Zukowski said the absence of blood, the precision cuts found on the carcasses, and the lack of evidence that the horses struggled during the incident make a wild animal attack unlikely. Instead, he believes either the U.S. military or extraterrestrials (ETs) are responsible for the attack, in part because the incident occurred days after nearby residents reported a UFO sighting.

"We have many military bases in the area, and the military could be using the animals for environmental studies," he said. "The ETs could be harvesting tissue from the animals to create hybrids."

Both Zukowski and Mrs. Schneider said similar mutilations have been reported in the immediate area and elsewhere in Colorado for years. Many of those incidents have been investigated by local law enforcement authorities, Zukowski, and other so-called UFOlogists, Exactly who or what is responsible for the attacks on the Schneiders' horses has never been definitively determined. Still, Schneider hopes sharing her experience will alert her neighbors to the fact that their animals are vulnerable.

"I just don’t know what happened to our horses," Mrs. Schneider said. "But it's scary out here, and I'd hate to see this happen to somebody else."

So...what do you believe? UFOs? Military exercises? Or wild animals?