Livestock News

Biker sues SD ranch after buffalo attack


A North Dakota biker is suing a South Dakota buffalo ranch for negligence after she says she was mauled by a buffalo that was unattended on U.S. Highway 212.

According to the Rapid City Journal, Marisol Heidrich, of Minot, North Dakota, contends the Mickelson Ranch, in northern Meade County, failed to take steps that would have prevented her injuries despite knowing the danger the buffalo posed. She is asking for more than $75,000 in compensation.

The collision happened Aug. 1, 2014, when Heidrich and her husband were riding their motorcycles to the Sturgis rally and came across four buffaloes grazing near the road. Both slowing down to 25 mph, the husband drove past the animals first. When Heidrich’s attempted to drive through, a buffalo hit the right rear of her Harley-Davidson, knocking her off, and stomping on her head.

She was airlifted to Rapid City Regional Hospital with fractures around her nose and left eye, facial lacerations, and loose teeth.

For many years, certain portions of South Dakota were designated as “open range.”  These specific laws allowed for cattle to range without fences, but were repealed in 1980.

However the term “open range” still has meaning in the state. The term comes up in describing the liability between motorists and livestock owners in motor vehicle/livestock collisions occurring on the roads.

According to state law, the owner of a domestic animal is not “liable for damages for an injury resulting from its being so at large unless he has knowledge of vicious propensities of the animal or unless he should reasonably have anticipated that injury would result from its being so at large on the highway.” Courts look to the facts of each case and consider “[t]he character of the road, the kind of traffic thereon, the time of day, and all other pertinent facts and the surrounding conditions” to determine whether the farmer or rancher “should have reasonably anticipated the danger.”

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