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Posts Tagged ‘winter storm Atlas 2013’


I continue to be amazed by the backward thinking that some folks have, saying “If the ranchers had really cared about their animals, they would have had shelters every 20 acres and those animals wouldn’t have died.”

Aside from clearly not knowing anything about actual ranching, cattle, or the ranchers that have them, it’s patently false to think that having shelter was the key to saving them.

It’s not.

Let me say that again.

Having shelter would not have saved them. Not necessarily. Not guaranteed..

I read one account where 63 cattle had taken shelter and were found dead because they had gotten buried by snow and suffocated or froze to death. I read other accounts where ranchers were digging out cattle that had used bales of hay as a wind break; some of them survived, some did not.

If someone doesn’t think snow can suffocate and cause death, then I’d say that person didn’t live in a location where there was real snow. You try breathing in near hurricane force winds that are blowing sticky snow onto your partially frozen body, all the while burying you under snow drifts of 7 or 8 feet high. Ya. Try that and get back to me.

In addition, with that kind of snow load, a more likely scenario would have been the shelters collapsing under the weight of the snow and trapping and killing the cattle inside who were too buried in snow to escape.

I’ve seen pictures of cabin doors that were blown in and the cabin filled with snow. Now imagine if you didn’t have a coat and were already wet and it was blowing a sustained 60 mph.

Using a quote from an article on Beef Magazine.com, “She said, “Discouraging day. Cows are smart and know the draws to hunker down in, in just about any direction the storm comes from. But when the storm fills your hiding place, you must leave or get buried. Many cows did not leave and did not survive. The cows that left got stuck in drifts and had the same fate.”” 

Did y’all get that?

The storm blew snow drifts INTO the shelters. INTO THE SHELTERS.

Had this storm blown in during the actual winter, animals might have fared better. With this kind of driving snow, the ones not suffocating might not have succumbed to hypothermia because their winter coats would have given them some measure of protection.

And still, they might have suffocated under the snow anyhow.

They would have also been in their higher winter grounds. I’ve read about some herds that had already been moved to the winter grazing grounds who didn’t fare much better.

But this storm at this time?

No. The death toll was not because of ranchers not caring.

I’ve read accounts of folks going out to dig out cattle to get their ear tags for identification.diggingoutcattle Some found cattle that were buried and barely alive. So they kept digging, trying to get sunlight on hide to help warm them up.

I have yet to see anything on mainstream news.

Fortunately, people are getting the word out as they can.

In addition to the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund, there are now several outlets on Facebook helping connect folks to relief measures.

Here’s a list of the ones I have. If you know of others, please link to them by leaving a comment. If I get enough, I’ll update either on this post or on a new one.

South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association- has helpline info

South Dakota Cattle Locator– not just for cattle, as I’ve seen folks posting information on found horses

Pennington County digs free mass burial pits for cattle killed in blizzard- free carcass burial information

Rancher’s Reflief Fund– Facebook page

Atlas Blizzard Ranch Relief and Aid– good collection of resources and info

5 Resources For South Dakota Ranchers Hit By October Blizzard– this article has resources and links to other articles on the blizzard

Other links to stories written by other people with first-hand experience of this storm:

Photos: Heather Hamilton-Maude

Rancher Details “Gut-Wrenching” Pain From Cattle Lost In SD Blizzard- Heather’s Story

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