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SD state vet updates blizzard livestock deaths
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news Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

RAPID CITY (AP) — Many of the thousands of South Dakota cattle that perished in an Oct. 4 blizzard died of congestive heart failure brought on by stress, State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven says.

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Oedekoven also has released updated totals on livestock deaths from the storm that dumped up to 4 feet of snow in the western part of the state. His office has verified the deaths of 13,977 cattle, 1,257 sheep, 287 horses and 40 bison — more than 15,500 animals, he told the Rapid City Journal.

Many of the animals died after being pummeled by rain, snow and unrelenting winds, according to Oedekoven.

"At least they were not lying in water and their lungs were full of fluid," he said. "There was a common thought or misconception out there — that they must have breathed all that in. That it must have settled in their lungs."

That is not the case, he said. Rain drenched the livestock for 12 to 18 hours before the blizzard's strong winds and wet snow delivered the killing blow.

"Those cows likely got hypothermic. They were cold," Oedekoven said.

Oedekoven said he thinks there are still ranchers who have not reported their losses from the storm.

A fund set up to help ranchers restock their herds has received more than $700,000 in donations, according to the South Dakota Stockgrowers Executive Director Silvia Christen.

"It's been pretty incredible and impressive to see that grow," she said. "It's humbling to see where all the people are and where it's coming from and how many people care about what's happening out here."

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