Clark County rancher Ab Laird, who lost 1,435 head of livestock during last month's arctic blast, has accepted the disaster as an unfortunate part of living in the mountains.

"We just take it in stride. I guess the way it turned out was unavoidable," the 80-year-old Clark County commissioner said.The blizzard paralyzed the Dubois area in early February when it plunged wind chill temperatures to 100 degrees below zero and buried buildings and stranded livestock in 15-foot snow drifts.

The winter storm killed 835 head of cattle and 600 sheep on the Laird ranch when ice formed on the animals' mouths and nostrils, suffocating them.

"It was just too strong a wind, just too cold with the wind we did have, and too many days at too low temperatures," Laird said.

The dead animals were hauled to Golden Valley Packers Inc. in Roberts, where the beef hides were stripped for tanning. The carcasses were quartered and sent to a pet-food producer in Utah.

Laird said he received no money for the salvage operation and had no insurance to cover the livestock losses.

"They had to be cleaned up and we were probably lucky to get it done," he said, adding that local authorities ordered disposal of the animals to reduce health risks.

Laird said the family herd, which was reduced to 130 cattle and 600 sheep, may be built to its original size, but "not in my lifetime, of course."