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Ranchers, pet owners mostly were prepared for blizzard

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Beau runs around as he enjoys playing in the snow at Circle of Friend Humane Society in Grand Forks, ND on Wednesday, December 7, 2016. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)2 / 4
Beau fetches a toy and gallops through the snow at Circle of Friend Humane Society in Grand Forks, ND on Wednesday, December 7, 2016. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)3 / 4
Rick Smart's dogs, Chinky, left, and Charlie, explore their new surroundings after the first measurable snowfall this week in East Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald4 / 4

A sudden blizzard can be devastating to livestock and pets, but it appears most ranchers and pet owners were prepared for the storm that gripped North Dakota this week when it came to protecting their four-legged friends.

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture received few reports of livestock deaths due to Blizzard Alivia as she moved through the Midwest on Monday night and Tuesday. There were reports of cattle drifting into other pastures, said Julie Ellingson, executive vice president for the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association.

Snowfall counts ranged from less than an inch in parts of southwest North Dakota to 18 inches in central North Dakota and the Red River Valley, including nearly 15 inches of snow in Grand Forks. Winds exceeding 30 mph caused snow to drift as temperatures dropped quickly overnight.

The first storm of the season for some -- it was the second for most in North Dakota -- showed up later than normal.

“But boy, when she showed up, she showed up in full force,” Ellingson said. “You really have to applaud the people who see their animals as priority No. 1.”

Dr. Susan Keller, North Dakota’s state veterinarian, said she wasn’t sure what kind of reports she would have when she got back into her Bismarck office Wednesday, but other than a semi crash near Larimore, N.D., that killed 13 cattle the truck was hauling Tuesday on U.S. Highway 2 and a report of a trailer that was stranded near Steele, N.D., in which several cattle died, there were no reports of dead livestock being found in snow. A representative with the Grand Forks Police Department said she was unaware of any pet deaths.

There was a request to help with snow removal so ranchers can get to lots and pastures to feed their livestock.

“We usually do that when there is a major storm,” she said.

Pets

Pet owners should be wary of approaching blizzards, as they can be deadly for dogs, cats and other small animals that get caught in the storms.

Animals can get scared and may run away during a storm, said Lauralee Tupa, executive director of the Circle of Friends Humane Society in Grand Forks. If that happens, it is important to contact the Police Department’s Animal Control Division, she said.

Pet owners can list if their animals go missing on the department’s Animal Control Division Facebook page. The department and Circle of Friends offer tips on how to care for pets in various situations, including during blizzards.

“If you see someone else’s pet, call the Police Department right away because they will go out and look for it so the animal doesn’t freeze,” she said.

Owners should consider microchipping their pets so if they are found without nametags or a collar they can be returned to their owners.

Keller said it is important pets are brought out of the elements or at least have a place for shelter. Hypothermia can set in quickly for pets that stay out in the weather too long, causing serious injury or death.

Pets, particularly dogs, still need to be let out to do their business, even during the winter months. Tupa suggested watching the pet closely so they don’t get lost, or setting a timer to let them in.

“We can have that tendency to let our animals out and hope they bark or whine to signal to us to let them back in,” she said. “However, they may get a little distracted playing in the snow.”

She added it’s important to be reasonable. Booties for paws can help prevent frostbite, but it may be wise to cut down outdoor time.
“If you don’t want to go outside for more than two minutes, don’t put your dog out for more than that,” she said.

Livestock

A storm last week that dropped 2 feet in some parts of central North Dakota may have made farmers realize winter is here and that they need to be prepared for future storms, Ellingson said. It also helps when ranchers get advance notice from weather forecasts.

Still, the sudden change from warm, nice fall days to the harsh wind and temperatures of winter can be stressful for both ranchers and animals, which can face health problems in the dramatic change.

“I don’t know if anyone is fully prepared for a storm like that,” Keller said, but there are steps ranchers can take to make sure their animals are ready for the storm, including providing some type of shelter, such as a barn and windbreaks. “That’s the main thing, so they can get out of the wind.”

Ranchers also should pull cattle closer to the farm or places where it is easier to check on them. Another hint is keeping feed close to livestock or even supplying extra foliage ahead of the storm in case a rancher can’t get to the cattle for a couple of days.

It’s also vital that livestock have access to water, which will freeze when temperatures drop. It’s a good idea to have heated water tanks, though some producers will have to break the ice after the storm.

Dedication

Despite the tendency to stay indoors after a blizzard, ranchers in North Dakota know they have to get to their livestock to take care of them, Ellingson said.

“Livestock producers, regardless of where they live and what their situation is, they have one thing in common: working hard to make sure (livestock) are fed, that they have access to water,” she said. “A lot of people who are dealing with frozen water fountains were out Wednesday and Tuesday, they have their hands in the cold water and are breaking away ice.”

Keller agreed, adding that caring for cattle after a big blizzard takes double the time when ranchers have to dig themselves out of a storm.

“The neighbors we talked to, they said they spend more time just keeping the roads open so they can get to the livestock, keeping the water open,” she said.

The cold weather also can make it difficult for machinery to start up, and ranchers have to spend extra time clearing private roads to get to their livestock.

“You really have to give a shoutout to all the people who put the lives of their animals before them even in these kinds of situations,” Ellingson said.

Keller said it’s important for ranchers to also take care of themselves and not put their lives at risk.

“We always say human safety first,” she said. “The more you can be prepared ahead of time, the safer you will be.”

Microchipping event

Various sources place the cost of microchipping at $50, though there may be specials available or community events that microchip for discounted prices, such as the Home for the Holidays event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Lithia Chrysler in Grand Forks.

The first 50 pets will be microchipped for free or be given a $10 vaccination if their owners bring in the pet and a pet-related donation. After the first 50 pets go through, microchips will cost $10. Vaccinations will cost $20 for cats and $30 dogs.

Donations needed include durable dog toys, nonclumping cat litter, cat toys and gift certificates.

In addition, Lithia will donate $25 to the Circle of Friends Humane Society for each vehicle test drive. Christmas cookie decorating will be available for children.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015. She works with a team of talented journalists and editors, who strive to give the Grand Forks area the quality news readers deserve to know. Baumgarten grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college,  she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

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