A “hateful massacre” of horses has officials running an intense investigation in Arizona, bolstered by a $25K reward, after a relentless animal killer put more than a dozen of the majestic creatures to death.
12 News, an NBC affiliate, reports that 14 “wild” horses were found shot and killed in Alpine, AZ last week. All were left for scavenging animals in the region near Forest Road 25 on the Alpine and Springerville Ranger Districts. Simone Netherlands, a wildlife advocate, shared further intel regarding the brutal killings.
“We’ve been finding dead horse after dead horse,” Netherlands shared. “It’s been absolutely horrific. She continued, “Shots to the heart and to the face, to the neck, and some of these horses are still alive, just walking around with bullets.”
Per the outlet, the AZ investigation is being headed by the US Forest Service. The massacre making headlines right now resemble just the latest in a string of ongoing killings that really began receiving attention several years ago. Altogether, there have been 50 horses killed since 2018. Dozens of bodies were found near Heber, AZ as well as in Alpine.
Netherlands further documented the cruelty with which the animals were killed. She said most were shot in the heart, chest, or lungs, with some sustaining bullet wounds to the head. Some of her images even show two lying side by side, both with bullets in their skulls.
Protections for Wild Horses are Limited and Those Massacred Had None
What makes the most recent massacre of “wild” horses even more tragic is that they are not actually protected by the federal government like some wild horse herds and populations across the West.
Per the outlet, there are recognized groups of wild horses—including the Salt River herd. And then there are others, like those killed, that aren’t actually considered “wild.”
Instead, officials consider these non-registered groups of wild horses “unauthorized livestock.” The hooved creatures find themselves in difficult federal standing as they aren’t legally protected by the government, however, they’re also not protected by independent ranchers and farmers. Simply put, they don’t actually belong to anyone.
Still, advocates like Simone Netherlands and others are pushing to earn protection for unauthorized livestock. However, it’s certainly an uphill battle. Grazing remains one of the biggest conflicts between wild horses and ranchers.
Mesa Verde National Park Herd Captured, Set to be ‘Gentled’ and Adopted
While wild horse advocates aim to protect AZ’s unauthorized livestock, experts farther east are working to gentle and adopt out several dozen horses captured in Mesa Verde National Park. These efforts come as these Colorado horses are also not actually considered wildlife and are instead labeled feral or trespass livestock.
Last month, 11 wild mares and foals were corraled by Whit Hibbard. Hibbard is a low-stress horse trainer aiming to put some of the west’s free-running horses in safe, loving homes. Instead of rounding up the wild herd with cowboys and “helicopter stampedes” though, Hibbard utilizes a safer, non-stress method. He heavily endorses the use of psychologically-based practices to trap the animals.
“We use psychology and nonverbal pressure,” the horse expert explained. “We use food and water to get them to do what we want. They think it is their idea.”