Reward is offered in S.D. cattle poisoning |

Reward is offered in S.D. cattle poisoning

A South Dakota rancher who lost 44 head of cattle last October to poisoning is still searching for answers. Both the cattle killer and the exact poison remain a mystery.

Bernard Donahue told KELO-TV that his family was leasing a pasture for 65 head of cattle in Miner County, near Howard, when the water was poisoned. One bull and 43 bred heifers died.

According to Donahue, veterinarian Tom Heirigs, Twin Lakes Vet, was called, and he said the water tank’s smell was “almost enough to make you puke.”

Water samples were taken for testing, but the results, according to Tom Heirigs, at least on the water samples will be difficult to pinpoint. The testing done on the animals however, can be narrowed down to just a couple of possibilities, as the ammonia levels in the blood were two to three times above toxic levels, according to Heirig.

“The only thing that will do that is urea or fertilizer,” Heirig said.

Heirig has no doubt that the problem was initially in the water, based on the ammonia smell. “When I smelled the water that night, it about blew my nose off,” Heirig said.

The frustration is evident on the lack of information. Heirig thinks there may be people that know more than they are sharing, and hopes someone will come forward.

“I’m sure it was fertilizer,” Heirig said, adding that it would seem that law enforcement officials could at least take a look at who bought large amounts of fertilizer prior to the animals dying.

The Donahues, as expected are still devastated, as is their vet.

“When I got there, there were two dead, but by that night there were 22,” Heirig said. “Talk about feeling totally helpless.”

Like Heirig, Bernard Donahue is not holding his breath on law enforcement finding the killer.

“I have my doubts that they will find anything at this point,” Donahue said.

“If it was somebody’s dog, it would be a different story,” Donahue added, pointing to the disconnect between agriculture animals and family pets.

The 44 animals, valued at approximately $80,000, died very quickly, according to both Donahue and Heirig.

“Whatever killed them, killed them fast,” Donahue said, but added that some did make it through.

“We had some that kind of came out of it, but it affected their brain. They either laid there paralyzed, or tried to kill you,” Donahue said.

“If [the killer] had seen what we went through in 24-hours…I really don’t think they had a clue,” he added.

There is speculation that the owner of the property Donahue was leasing may have been targeted. Heirig told reporters that he received a threatening anonymous letter. The letter stated, “You two are the most hated two in the area…I know karma comes around…. I hope you get what you deserve.”

“They had to walk right by his house,” Donahue said. “It seems that there should be lots more questions asked!”

County Sheriff Lanny Klinkhammer said in a news report no one reported seeing anything suspicious that night, but he’s confident the killer will be caught eventually.

The Donahues are offering a reward of $5,000, and an anonymous donor has added another $5,000 to the reward, for any information that leads to an arrest.

Sheriff Klinkhammer did not respond to a request for an interview.

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