By Carrie Sheffield
In what officials call a growing trend, four mustang horses were found shot dead near the Utah-Nevada state line, the Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday Jan. 22.
The shootings, discovered in late December, are the latest in a string of wild horse deaths in both Utah and Nevada.
An employee of the Bureau of Land Management discovered the dead horses along a dirt path on government-owned property north of Panaca Summit in eastern Lincoln County, Nevada.
Investigators estimated the horses had been dead for two to four weeks.
“It”s hard to determine the motivation behind this kind of act,” said Bill Wagers, BLM Ely district ranger. “There are some people that don”t like wild horses. There are some people that perhaps shoot a horse just for the heck of it.”
No suspects have been identified in connection with the crime, a federal offense under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act.
The act calls for punishments of up to a $2,000 fine and/or one year in jail for each count.
A $15,000 reward has been posted for information leading to the arrest and conviction, according to Nevada BLM spokesman Chris Hanfeld.
Two other reports of wild horse shootings have been reported in the past two years in Lincoln County alone. No suspects have been arrested in those cases.
Four mustangs were found fatally shot in Iron County, Utah in 2001, and nine horses were found shot in southern Utah in 2000.
“It”s a problem that our law enforcement folks have been looking into, and hopefully it”s not a trend that”s going to continue,” said Gus Warr, wild horse and burro specialist for the Utah BLM.
“The frustrating thing in dealing with these cases, they happen in such a remote area that there are usually no witnesses or any kind of credible evidence that can be brought toward some charges,” Warr said.
Warr said recent drought conditions causing a lack of wild vegetation may have contributed to negative feelings some people have toward mustangs.
“They may like wildlife, they may like deer and elk, and they don”t want those animals to have to compete with mustangs for foraging,” Warr said.
BLM officials estimate there are about 2,000 wild horses in Utah, including a large herd in Salt Lake County.
Utah is divided into 22 areas, which allow the wild horse population to reach an assigned count in each area.
Once an area has exceeded its population, the surplus horses are rounded up and taken to corrals located in the towns of Herriman and Delta, Utah.
Mustangs are available for adoption by the general public at the corrals and at BLM events statewide.