Rare White Buffalo In Texas Killed By Infection, Not Mutilation

Nathan Francis - Author

Jun. 15 2013, Updated 8:53 p.m. ET

A rare white buffalo in Texas that caused international headlines when it was born in 2011 and then died shortly afterward was a victim of infection and was not skinned as its owner initially suspected.

Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said a veterinarian looked into photographs of the rare white buffalo and determined that it did not appear it was mutilated, The Associated Press reported. The calf, named Lightning Medicine Cloud, died in May on the Lakota Ranch about 50 miles from Dallas and made headlines when it was found dead by ranch owner Arby Little Soldier.

An investigation showed that two more buffalo have died at the Lakota Ranch since the rare white buffalo’s death in May. Investigators believe a bacterial infection known as blackleg was the culprit.

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“It lays dormant in the land,” Meeks said of the spores that cause the infection. “It’s very preventable by vaccination. We were not told by the Little Soldiers that these two had died.”

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The non-albino white buffalo is sacred to the Lakota Sioux, who believe that the goddess of peace once appeared in the form the rare white buffalo. The death of Lightning Medicine Cloud brought international attention to the area, The Associated Press reported, with an Oregon organization even planning to donate a rare white buffalo of its own to the Lakota.

Little Medicine Cloud also made international headlines when it was born in 2011. The rare white buffalo’s birth was featured in the UK’s Daily Mail, which noted that the calf was a one-in-ten-million rarity.

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The spore that killed the rare white buffalo is unusually deadly, said Terry Hensley, a Texas A&M extension office veterinarian. The infection can enter through a wound or be eaten by the animal and can lay dormant in their muscles for months or years before striking. But once it does take effect, the animal is killed quickly.

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“Normally they’re healthy one day and the rancher finds them dead the next,” Hensley said.

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The rare white buffalo’s mother, Buffalo Woman, was found dead a day after the rare white buffalo died.


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