Rare White Buffalo Died of 'Blackleg' Infection, Say Texas Investigators

On Tuesday, authorities in Texas revealed that a white buffalo found dead had died of a bacterial infection and not from foul play as previously thought.

Non-albino white buffalo are very rare and are kept in high esteem by Native Americans. Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said a veterinarian made the determination that the death was caused by a bacterial infection.

Meeks further explained that after the veterinarian conducted an autopsy and found no abnormalities he decided to close the investigation, but would reconsider reopening the case if new evidence is brought forward, according to AP.

The calf, named Lightning Medicine Cloud, died in May on the Lakota Ranch near Greenville, about 50 miles northeast of Dallas. The incident led to an outburst from animal rights groups as well as the owner of the calf, who thought the death was the result of a hate crime.

Ranch owner Arby Little Soldier reported finding the calf mutilated and believed it had been killed as part of a hate crime. Little Soldier also revealed that an Oregon organization had offered to donate a white buffalo bull from its own herd.

Meeks also revealed that the investigation showed that two more buffalo died at the Lakota Ranch since May and said investigators believed a bacterial infection called blackleg was the reason for the deaths.

"It lays dormant in the land … It's very preventable by vaccination. We were not told by the Little Soldiers that these two had died." Meeks told AP, adding that it is transferred to the animals through spores.

There is a vaccine available for blackleg but it has only been approved for cattle and not buffalo. Terry Hensley, a Texas A&M extension office veterinarian, explained that the bacteria-laden spores can lay dormant in the animals digestive tracts for months or even years.

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