Heber Wild Horse. iStock image.

More horses reported dead near Heber Wild Horse Territory

SPRINGERVILLE, AZ — The death count has risen in recently reported cases of horse slayings within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.

Following a report earlier this month that a total of eight horses were found dead, largely from gunshot wounds, the Forest Service is now reporting that an additional seven horses were discovered. That brings the current total to 15 dead horses from January 9 through 14.

“Several horses died due to bullet wounds, and other carcasses were too badly decomposed to determine the cause of death,” ASNF officials said.

The release also spoke to the role of the public in the investigation, writing that, “The tips that law enforcement receives are a critical component of these investigations, and the public is encouraged to continue to provide any information that may lead to an arrest. Investigators want to remind the public that while it’s not possible to respond to every tip received, the information provided is important and helpful and will be followed up on by law enforcement.”

However, they also cautioned people not to interfere in the process of the investigation.

Those with information related to these or other yet unreported incidents have been directed to contact the Black Mesa Ranger District at 928-535-7300 or call the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 1-800-78-CRIME.

Source: Ken Showers; Jan. 25, 2020. See Copper Era News »

Related Reading

SPRINGERVILLE, AZ — Authorities know from necropsies what killed four of a dozen wild horses that were recently found dead in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. The iconic symbols of the American West were shot. Now, investigators want to know who shot the horses — part of the federally protected herd of Heber Wild Horses that have roamed Arizona’s Rim Country for centuries — and why.

The horse killings have been going on for some time. At least 15 have been shot since the beginning of 2020, according to park officials. And from October 2018 to mid-2019, at least 19 other wild horses from the herd were reported dead, 11 from gunshot wounds.

In a statement, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests officials asked people to stay away from the area where the wild horses roam, during the criminal investigation. It is coordinated by park law enforcement officials, federal equine experts and the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office.

Source: Jan Dalby, Jan. 15, 2020; See Patch.com »

What’s being done about the fatal shooting of wild horses in Heber-Overgaard?

Since October 2018, there have been 19 documented cases of deceased horses in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, said Steve Johnson, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests spokesman.

Of those, 11 horses were found with gunshot wounds, six were severely decomposed, with their cause of death still undetermined, one died after getting stuck in a cattle-guard and one died after “blunt force trauma” which usually involves a vehicle collision, Johnson said.

Horses stand around the site where two horses were shot in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. (Photo: Robert Hutchison)
Horses stand around the site where two horses were shot in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. (Photo: Robert Hutchison)

The horses are protected by federal law. Authorities also investigate the deaths from unnatural causes. 

Source: Molly Hudson; Jun. 14, 2019. See AZ Central.com »

About the horses

The Wild Horse Territory was established on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests following the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

The census completed in 1974 found seven wild unclaimed horses on the Forest. A Wild Horse Territory was established for the horses in their location near the town of Heber, Arizona, and was named the Heber Wild Horse Territory. Over the next 20 years the herd size remained very small.

It was after the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski (R-C) fire which burned approximately 23 miles of forest boundary fencing, private fencing, and range fencing that large numbers of horses started appearing on National Forest lands within or adjacent to the territory. There are many potential sources for these horses, including tribal and private lands.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe claimed and gathered many of the horses following the Rodeo-Chediski fire. However, the boundary fence continues to be a problem, allowing horses to stray back and forth onto Forest lands. The Forest meets periodically with Tribal representatives to any potential opportunities to cooperate in long term maintenance of the common boundary fence. The Tribe, Forest, and permittees continue to remove fallen trees, repair fence that is cut illegally, and provide annual maintenance of the fence.

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests has been working on revising the Forests Land Management Plan, Travel Management planning and addressing resource issues from the historic 2011 Wallow Fire, which also changed the landscape.

In 2017 Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability convened a collaborative group to help provide input and recommendations to the Forest Service for development of the proposed action for the Heber Wild Horse Territory management plan. The collaborative represented many points of views, and in working together was able to come up with innovative ideas and solutions for the management plan.The collaborative group has provided its recommendations to the Forest Service for consideration in developing the proposed action for the management plan.

The Forest anticipates having a proposed action developed soon. Public scoping of the proposed action is expected to occur in 2020 and will by the environmental analysis (National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)) for the HWHT management plan in 2021. 

Source: USDA Forestry Service website »

Featured image: iStock.com

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