The Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office and the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association are enlisting the public’s help to solve a case involving more than 58 dead pregnant cows in a pasture on the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge.

The Sheriff’s Office and the Stockmen’s Association announced a reward of up to $40,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the cattle deaths on Wednesday, Sept. 1, at a press conference in Jamestown.

Brian Amundson, owner of Bar V Ranch south of Buchanan, discovered 58 pregnant cattle that were dead on July 29 in a pasture leased for grazing on the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge. Of the 80 surviving cows, at least 15 have aborted their calves that were expected to be born in September.

Brian Amundson, owner of Bar V Ranch north of Jamestown, addresses a press conference Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. More than 58 dead cows were found in a pasture leased for grazing on the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge in July. At right is Major Jason Falk, an investigator with the Stutsman County Sheriff's Department.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
Brian Amundson, owner of Bar V Ranch north of Jamestown, addresses a press conference Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. More than 58 dead cows were found in a pasture leased for grazing on the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge in July. At right is Major Jason Falk, an investigator with the Stutsman County Sheriff's Department. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

“This is a significant loss to the Amundson family,” said Blaine Northrop, chief brand inspector for the Stockmen’s Association.

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Northrop said the loss of the cows is valued at almost $100,000, which does not include the value of the calves that the 58 cattle were carrying or the 15 calves that were aborted by the cows that survived.

Blaine Northrop, North Dakota Stockmen's Association chief brand inspector, talks during a press conference Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in regards to a large-scale cattle death case in Stutsman County.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
Blaine Northrop, North Dakota Stockmen's Association chief brand inspector, talks during a press conference Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in regards to a large-scale cattle death case in Stutsman County. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Amundson said he checked on the cattle on July 23 and found the dead cows on July 29. He said it was in the middle of the breeding season, so they were busy working other cattle at the time.

The case may or may not be connected to two separate fires -- one on April 10 and another on April 22 -- on the Amundson ranch that destroyed more than 2,000 bales valued at almost $200,000, said Maj. Jason Falk, an investigator with the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office. He said the fires are still under investigation and believed to be arson.

Dr. Gerald Stokka, North Dakota State University Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist, said veterinary diagnostics and clinical observations have ruled out lightning, anthrax, blue-green algae, clostridial disease, lead poisoning, lack of water and naturally-occurring nitrates as the cause of the cattle deaths.

Dr. Gerald Stokka, North Dakota State University Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist, visits with the media Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in regards to a large-scale cattle death case in Stutsman County.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
Dr. Gerald Stokka, North Dakota State University Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist, visits with the media Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in regards to a large-scale cattle death case in Stutsman County. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

He said some causes were ruled out because they don’t fit the category of being a “point source event,” which means it is an incident that kills many animals in a short period of time.

“Without being able to stand on a 100 percent certainty of this, it is my opinion that somehow these cattle had access to non-naturally-occurring nitrates and that can come from a number of different sources,” he said.

If it is nitrate toxicity, Stokka said one way to accomplish that is through cattle eating dry urea.

“They basically commit suicide when that takes place and it doesn’t take very much,” he said. “That is just one possible way that this could have happened, whether it is dry urea or it was placed in the water.”

The reward includes up to $10,000 from the Stockmen’s Association’s brand inspection program and up to $4,000 from the association’s membership with an additional $26,000 from the Amundson family.

“We are asking for our community, our industry and anybody that possibly knows anything to please share that with us,” Amundson said. “Come forward because I truly do not want this to happen again for our operation or anybody else that is in the beef industry.”

If anyone has any information, contact the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office at 701-251-6362, Northrop at (701) 390-2975 or Fred Frederikson, Stockmen’s Association deputy brand inspector, at (701) 290-3993.