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Texas Sheriff: Sacred White Buffalo Was Not Slaughtered

The mystery surrounding the death of a rare white buffalo and the claim by some Lakota Sioux in Texas that it had been killed by other Native Americans deepened Tuesday. A local sheriff announced that investigators believe the animal died of a bacterial disease and said the case is now closed.

We first posted about the death of Lightning Medicine Cloud in May. A white bison (the more accurate word to use) is considered sacred by many Native Americans. Arby Little Soldier, the owner/operator of the Lakota Ranch where Lightning Medicine Cloud was being raised, had said the animal was found slaughtered and skinned on April 30. He later went on to claim he had evidence that the animal was killed by members of another Native American tribe.

But as our colleagues at KETR report, Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said Tuesday that "it is our belief that Lightning Medicine Cloud and Buffalo Woman [the mother] died of natural causes. ... Information obtained during the investigation indicated many of the signs and symptoms exhibited by the buffalo are similar to a bacterial disease that we know as blackleg."

According to the station, the sheriff also said "authorities have photographs indicating Lightning was not skinned."

"The photographs depict skin and hair on the remains," Meeks said. "The veterinarian advised there was a lot of skin that was still left on the remains."

KETR adds that, "according to Meeks, the Sheriff's Office responded to the Lakota Ranch concerning the deaths on May 3. He told reporters that Lightning Medicine Cloud was deceased at least six days and buried for three days prior to their notification."

Meeks said the case is now closed. "Should further evidence surface in the future that would indicate that the deaths were not natural we will gladly reopen the case," he added.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Crime Time blog adds that Little Soldier "could not be reached for comment Tuesday." The Little Soldier family has previously posted "facts for all viewers, supporters, friends, mourners, and interested persons." That webpage includes this statement: "There was not an insurance policy on Lightning Medicine Cloud."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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