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Blake Nicholson, Associated Press, Published May 16 2013

Rewards grow in North Dakota cattle killing cases

BISMARCK — Donations from the North Dakota Stockmen's Association have boosted reward funds for information leading to convictions in two high-profile cattle-killing cases on opposite sides of the state.

The reward in a Richland County case in May 2012 in which 13 cows and a calf were shot and killed in a pasture near Hankinson is now up to $15,100. Officials say it is the largest cattle shooting in the state in recent memory.

The reward in an Oliver County case less than two months later in which nine cattle were killed is now up to $27,000, the largest such reward in state history, according to Stan Misek, the chief brand inspector for the North Dakota Stockmen's Association.

The main reason for the reward increases is a decision by the Stockmen's board of directors last December to increase the rancher group's standing reward in any case of someone stealing, illegally butchering or shooting cattle, horses or mules in North Dakota. The maximum amount has been increased from $1,000 to $10,000.

The rancher association had been considering an increase to the reward for a couple of years to keep up with inflation and the rising value of livestock, Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson said. The "senseless killings" last year provided another impetus, she said.

"We had high-profile cases, a big number of animals and an economic loss to those families, and that was probably a catalyst" for the change, Ellingson said. "Hopefully it's enough to push someone over the top, loosen the lips and share some information."

The rest of the reward in the Richland County case has been provided by relatives of rancher David Kluge, businesses and other people, including a Washington state man — Richard Clise, of Camano Island — who said last year he contributed simply because he was outraged by the killings.

Kevin and Patty Kluge, David Kluge's brother and sister-in-law, added $1,000 to the reward fund this week.

"This was more than the loss of some cows," Kevin Kluge said. "This was the loss of a significant share of a family's livelihood. And that affects the dollars that are spent on Main Street; the tax dollars that are sent back to the state; and everyone who goes to the grocery store and purchases beef."

The Richland County cattle were valued at $35,000 and the Oliver County cattle at $25,000.

Kluge also said Missy, a calf that was orphaned in the shooting and later raised by two surrogate nanny goats owned by Daran and Deb Sagvold of McLeod, is thriving and "a symbol of the animal's and the family's resilience."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.