A rare white buffalo calf believed to be skinned and mutilated by its Texas owner actually died from an infection.
Rare white buffalos are highly respected by Native Americans. Arby Little Soldier, a member of the Lakota Sioux tribe and owner of the animal, said he thought the buffalo was skinned as a hate crime, the Associated Press reported.
But Little Soldier's hypothesis was ruled out by a veterinarian who determined Tuesday that the bovine's cause of death was a bacterial infection, Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks told the AP.
The rare white buffalo, named Lightning Medicine Cloud, died in May 2011 on Little Soldier's ranch about 50 miles from Dallas, the AP reported.
The investigation into the rare white buffalo's death has been closed.
The rare white buffalo is looked up to by Native Americans because the goddess of peace "once appeared in the form of a white buffalo calf," the AP said, citing Lakota Sioux lore.
A bacterial infection known as blackleg was ruled as the cause of death of Lightning Medicine Cloud and two other rare white buffalos who died at the Lakota Ranch since May, the AP reported.
Blackleg spores are either eaten by the animals or enter animals through an open wound, according to the wire service.
Meeks said blackleg "lays dormant in the land.
"It's very preventable by vaccination. We were not told by the Little Soldiers that these two had died," the sheriff told the AP.
A blackleg vaccine exists but is not approved for buffalo despite experts who say the inoculation would be effective, according to Terry Hensley of Texas A&M.
Hensley told the AP that the dormancy of blackleg may take animal owners by surprise once the bacterial infection manifests itself.
"Normally they're healthy one day and the rancher finds them dead the next," Hensley told the AP.
The investigation into the rare white buffalo's death involved interviewing 25 people and a Native American consultant who communicated with tribal elders, according to NBC Dallas Fort Worth.