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D.A. Osguthorpe, a prominent veterinarian and rancher for six decades in Utah, was instrumental in solving one of the state's strangest mysteries --- how 6,000 seemingly healthy sheep dropped dead in western Utah's Skull Valley in 1968.

Osguthorpe, who went by the nickname "Doc," died Monday at his Holladay home. He was 88.

His 1968 investigation, which included autopsies of the sheep, led him to put the blame squarely on the U.S. Army, which eventually admitted it had conducted nerve gas tests from an airplane in the area. The federal government later paid thousands of dollars to the ranchers who had lost their sheep.

Twenty years before his investigation into the sheep deaths, Osguthorpe had become a veterinarian in Utah, specializing in larger animals like horses, cattle and sheep.

He began buying land around Park City in the 1940s and 1950s with the idea of establishing pristine recreational areas to complement the Park City ski areas.

He expanded his ranching operations into central Utah's Millard and Juab counties. He also developed a sizable dairy operation and preserved a barn on one of his Summit County properties that later was placed in the National Historic Registry.

For his work in finding ways to preserve natural resources while developing multiple uses of the land, Osguthorpe received the Forest Landowner of the Year award in 2004 from the Utah Association of Conservation Districts. In 2005, he received the Utah Farm Bureau Federation Farm Stewardship Award in 2005 and was a Leopold Conservation Award finalist in 2007.

Retired veterinarian Clark Vanderhoof remembered Osguthorpe as a fellow alumnus of Colorado State University's Professional Veterinary Medical Program, noting, "he was quite a promoter of the school in this area."

Among his many wards, Osguthorpe received the CSU Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1999.

"I know he got some flak from that Skull Valley thing, but he won out in the end," Vanderhoof said.

In his report of the sheep deaths, Osguthorpe noted that the Army denied any involvement, but his investigation discovered that the nerve gas was discharged from the plane and carried away from the test area by the wind. Eventually, it was brought to the ground by rain and snow, contaminating the sheep's fodder.

Osguthorpe married Afton Silver in 1941 in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. She died in 1989. He later married June Okland Cockrell, who survives him, along with seven children and stepchildren, 25 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

The funeral will be held Friday at noon at the Cottonwood 14th LDS Ward chapel, 2080 E. 5165 South, in Holladay.