31 Wild Horses Killed in Mass Slaughter in Nevada
Thirty-one wild horses were shot to death at close range with a rifle in the worst slaughter of free-roaming horses in Nevada in a decade, investigators said Tuesday.
“This kind of stuff is just sick and absolutely senseless,” said Paul Iverson, administrator of the Nevada Division of Agriculture. “Some of them were shot and left to suffer for a long period of time.”
Twenty-five of the horses were found in and around a valley known as Devil’s Flat on Sunday and Monday. Six additional bodies were discovered during a helicopter search on Tuesday.
The horses included several young colts and pregnant mares. Some were maimed and at least one was tortured with sprays to the head from a fire extinguisher after being shot, sheriff’s Sgt. Bob Towery said.
“I have no reason why. There’s no rationale for it,” Towery said.
One young horse was still alive when leaders of a local animal rescue group were called to the scene Sunday afternoon, but it had to be destroyed.
“We only saw two [dead] horses at first. Then, oh my God, we saw another one. And then a fourth and a fifth. It was horrible,” said Bobbi Royle of Wild Horse Spirit based in the nearby Washoe Valley.
“There was one little filly still alive, probably just 8 or 9 months old. She was shot in the back and paralyzed,” she said Tuesday. “She had to be put down.”
State officials were using a metal detector to locate and remove bullets from the carcasses to be sent to a forensics lab. A reward totaling more than $20,000 was posted for the arrest of the killers.
“There’s just total outrage. People are so upset,” said Lydia Hammack, president of Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Assn. in Virginia City. “These animals are magnificent animals and I really can’t understand how somebody can do this. It’s a real sicko out there.”
Investigators do not believe the killings are related to the long-standing tensions between ranchers and government managers of wild horses, said John Tyson, a Storey County range management officer. For decades, ranchers have complained that wild horses compete with their livestock for limited food in the high desert.
The slaughter is believed to be the biggest single shooting of wild horses in Nevada since as many as 600 were killed during a two-year period in the mid-1980s.
Those shootings were linked to friction with ranchers, said Bob Stewart, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Land Management.