Miracle the buffalo, the symbol of peace, died at 11:07 p.m. Sunday on the Dave and Valerie Heider farm in Janesville.
“She became sick on Friday,” Dave Heider said. “She was off her feed and became lethargic.”
The vet was with Miracle for much of last weekend but couldn’t save her.
“We don’t believe she was suffering,” Heider said Friday afternoon. “It looked like she was resting peacefully.”
The vet and Valerie Heider were with Miracle when she died.
It’s not known why Miracle died, and the Heiders thought it would be inappropriate to do an autopsy.
“I really don’t know what happened; she’s always been small,” Dave Heider said.
Miracle was buried in an unmarked grave. The Heiders may plan a memorial service at a later date and haven’t decided on a grave marker.
Miracle was born on Aug. 20, 1994. She was the first all-white buffalo born since 1933.
A white buffalo is a sacred figure to some American Indians. According to a Lakota Sioux legend, the return of the female white buffalo calf heralded an era of peace and understanding among the people of the Earth.
Her appearance caused an influx of visitors from all over the world to the 45-acre farm at 2739 S. River Road.
People tramped up and down the farm lane at all hours of the day and night. The phone rang constantly. The Heiders had to set aside part of their land for parking.
The attention was exhausting.
In an 1999 interview, Heider talked about the days after Miracle’s birth: “We figured after three months it would all dry up and go away. Now, we know better. Sometimes, I regret it.”
But his attitude changed, and he came to feel blessed by Miracle’s presence. “We met people from all over the world,” Heider said. “We had opportunities that we never would have had before.”
The Heiders have played host to 300 tribes from all over the world including the Masai of Africa, the Aztecs of Mexico and aborigines from Australia. The Sioux, the Cree and the Ho Chunk are just a few of the tribes that have been to their home.
Over the years, Miracle turned black, red and yellow. Part of the legend said that the white buffalo would turn different colors to reflect all human races.
Miracle had three calves, Millennium, Lady Miracle, Mitakuye Oyasin-which means “We Are All Related in the Sacred Hoop of Life” in the Nakota Sioux language.
In August, about 300 people visited the Heider farm for her 10th birthday. Many visitors said Miracle represented hope in time of war.
“The legend doesn’t say anything about Miracle dying,” Heider said. “Buffalos can live to be 25 to 30 years old.”
Heider delayed releasing the news for the better part of a week because he and his wife had to go on a business trip and they were still adjusting to their own shock and sadness.
“I really don’t know how you can love an animal that much that you couldn’t touch. She wasn’t tame, you know, she was basically a wild animal,” Heider said. “It’s hard to put into words; I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like losing a close friend or relative.”