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Blake Nicholson, Associated Press, Published July 30 2012

UPDATED: Cattle killing reward fund grows even larger

BISMARCK — The mysterious shooting deaths of nine cattle in western North Dakota's Oliver County has generated a reward fund of $18,000, the largest such reward in state history.

The North Dakota Stockmen's Association and others are trying to help law enforcement figure out who wanted the nine cattle dead — and why. The shootings happened on the Fourth of July and all the animals were left to die in the fields where they had been grazing.

The North Dakota Farmers Union on Monday donated $5,000 to the reward fund, with President Woody Barth saying the organization was concerned that someone would randomly shoot and kill cattle. Dakota Community Bank and two of its owners late last week contributed $3,000 to boost the reward fund, which began with $1,000 from the Stockmen's and $9,000 from Miles and Marjorie Tomac and John and Kim Dixon, all of Mandan, who owned the Oliver County cattle. The reward is for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

“Dakota Community Bank does business with farmers and ranchers throughout southwest North Dakota every day,” said Bank President Dale Pahlke, who contributed to the reward fund along with Vice President Stan Sayler. “It is disturbing, to say the least, that someone would be out in the country randomly shooting and destroying cattle. We're hopeful that the added money will entice people who know details about this crime to start talking.”

The shooting was the second such incident in North Dakota in a matter of months. Thirteen cows and a calf were gunned down in David Kluge's pasture in Richland County town in mid-May, in what the Stockmen's says is the largest cattle shooting in North Dakota in recent memory.

The reward in that case is up to $4,100, according to Stan Misek, chief brand inspector for the Stockmen's. The amount includes $1,000 from the rancher group, $1,000 from a Washington state man who said he was outraged by the killings, and smaller donations from other people and businesses.

The shootings happened on different sides of the state, and evidence in the case indicates they are not connected, said Steve Brooks, the Stockmen's brand board chairman. Misek said authorities have some leads in the Richland County case but not in the Oliver County case.

There also have been no breaks in the shooting deaths of four horses — including two pregnant mares — in Griggs County in May 2011. Those killings came about a week and a half after three cows were shot to death in a pasture about a half-mile away.

Such killings are unusual, Misek and Brooks said. Misek said there had been previous incidents where an animal was shot and then butchered, but never a case where so many have been killed and just left behind.

“We just don't have them happen like that, in those numbers,” Brooks said. “Maybe we're getting more crazy people running around out there that just don't have respect for other people's property.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.