October 17, 2013

A park ranger found one of Carroll County's two buffalo lifeless near its water trough Saturday at Swan Lake State Park.

The animals are one of the park's main attractions for children.

Two days prior, the male buffalo breathed heavily and drooled, the symptoms of a virus that commonly infects deer but sometimes kills cattle and other livestock.

"They're looking for water to cool down because of the fever," said Jason Christensen, conservation director for the county. "There's no treatment for it. There's no cure.

"It's a bummer. It's a big attraction. It's one of the things people come out to see."

What killed the male buffalo might not be confirmed, but a local veterinarian speculated that it could be epizootic hemorrhagic disease, which is often transmitted by biting flies. If lethal, it typically kills deer within 36 hours, according to Iowa State University researchers.

Christensen said the buffalo's old age - estimated at about 20 years - might have made it more susceptible to the virus. He and a Carroll County Conservation Board member said the county will likely replace the animal.

"People really enjoy them," board member Kenny Snyder said.

County workers took the animal to a local taxidermist this week. Christensen said the buffalo's head and shoulders will adorn a wall at the park's Education Center, where children have gone to see other, smaller stuffed animals for years.

He said the county will seek another buffalo this week or next from a herd in this state or one nearby.