This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In a previous number of the Monthly I saw Mr. Bassett's article on sheep poisoning by Kal-mia. I at once wrote to Mr. Stratton, the herdsman on Montauk Point, who has had years of experience in the care of the thousands of sheep, cattle and horses which have been pastured on the Point. His reply runs thus: "I have made inquiries concerning sheep poisoning, though not with entirely satisfactory results. I can hear of no one that has made a thorough examination with regard to this matter; but it is the general opinion about here that the sharp points of the leaves cut the lining of the stomach, thus causing inflammation, which usually results in death, but not always. I shall probably have a chance to make an examination before spring, as Mr. Benson has over two thousand sheep here for us to care for. The six or seven hundred that have been pastured here in previous years have been driven on about the 25th of March. Occasionally we have had snow storms after that; then, unless we watched them all the time, large numbers of them would kill themselves.
They will not touch the laurel so long as they can get any grass, but when the ground is covered they go for it instantly".
This seems to me quite as likely to be the case as the poisoning by the presence of prussic acid. I shall endeavor to learn more about it from Mr. Stratton and communicate the result to you.