The Hunt County Sheriff’s office has concluded that the rare white buffalo calf named Lightning Medicine Cloud died of a bacterial infection, and has closed its investigation of the case.
Lightning Medicine Cloud was born May 12, 2011, at the Lakota Ranch near Greenville, Texas. The buffalo was said to be a natural, non-albino white bison, which occurs just once in every 10,000 births. Such rare white buffalo are sacred to many Natives, most notably the Lakota due to its connection to the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman.
Arby Little Soldier reported that the carcass of Lightning Medicine Cloud was discovered on his property on April 30, after Little Soldier and his wife returned from a trip out of town. The animal, he said, appeared to have been skinned. The calf’s mother, Buffalo Woman, looked unwell, Little Soldier said, and died the following day.
According to WFAA-TV, Sheriff Randy Meeks said that “we have photographs indicating LMC was not skinned. The photographs depict skin and hair on the remains and the vet advised there was a lot of skin that was still left on the remains.” Meeks added that the death of the calf had not been reported promptly. “Lightning Medicine Cloud was deceased at least six days and buried for three days prior to our notification. The remains were decomposed,” he said.
A bacterial infection commonly known as black leg is the suspected cause of Lightning Medicine Cloud’s death. According to a report at NewsOK.com, two more buffalo on the ranch have died since May. Texas A&M extension office veterinarian Terry Hensley told NewsOK.com that black leg spores will enter an animal’s body through the mouth or a wound, and can remain dormant for months or years. The animals are “healthy one day and the rancher finds them dead the next,” Hensley said. Hensley added that there is an approved black leg vaccine for cattle, but not for buffalo.
Contacted by WFAA before the announcement, Little Soldier said that Lightning Medicine Cloud was killed in what he feels should be regarded as a hate crime. Little Soldier has attracted attention for the $45,000 reward offer (there is an explanation for it at lightningmedicinecloud.com) and for reportedly naming Yolanda Blue Horse, who is part of Greenville’s American Indian community, as a suspect. The Sheriff’s Office said it would not file any charges against Little Soldier.