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Wendy Reuer, Published May 21 2012

Suspect sought in shooting deaths of 14 cattle near Hankinson

HANKINSON, N.D. – Law enforcement officials are hoping the public can shed light on who shot and killed 14 cattle near here last week.

According to the Richland County Sheriff’s Office:

Someone went into a pasture owned by David Kluge about eight miles southwest of Hankinson and reportedly opened fire, shooting and killing 13 cows and one calf.

Kluge told authorities all but one likely died instantly; one cow was critically wounded and had to be destroyed.

Monday night, Kluge said he was working to keep the calves of the cows that died healthy. “It’s been chaotic,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep myself together and keep up with them.” Kluge found the animals Friday morning.

Authorities are investigating the case as criminal mischief. They believe this might not have been a random incident. The pasture is at the end of a remote dead-end road. An abandoned house sits on the land, a fenced-in tree area that is a couple hundred yards past “no trespassing” signs posted by Kluge.

Richland County Sheriff Larry Leshovsky said a donkey owned by Kluge was shot and killed in December. Officers are investigating a possible link between the two incidents.

Leshovsky said evidence was recovered at the scene, but declined to elaborate.

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of those responsible.

“They’re all good mix cows,” said Fred Fredrickson, investigator for the Stockmen’s Association. “It’s a heck of a loss for the victim.”

Fredrickson and Julie Ellingson, president of the Stockmen’s Association said they could not recall a similar case that involved the deaths of so many cattle at once.

Ellingson estimated the value of the cattle at about $30,000. The loss to Kluge is likely more than just money, she said.

“Livestock producers devote their lives, their livelihoods to the cattle; they work hard to care for the animals,” Ellingson said. “It’s heartbreaking anytime you lose even one. It’s hard to imagine how they must feel when something of this magnitude happens.”

The animals were part of Kluge’s family breeding program.

“We’ve got more than 120 years of breeding here,” Kluge said. “You can’t buy that, and we’ve lost them.”

The Cattleman’s Association has a standing reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of cattle rustlers.

“We always tell everybody to watch their pastures and watch their cattle; if there is anything suspicious, call law enforcement or the Stockmen’s Association,” Fredrickson said. “We’ll investigate anything with cows, horses or mules.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the Richland County Sheriff’s Office at (701) 642-7711.

WDAY reporter Todd Kurtz contributed to this report