A Mustang murder mystery in northern Nevada

WILD HORSES NEVADA (Warning: Graphic Image) — On May 10, 2017, Tuesday’s Horse received an email from the Professor and Chair of the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department of a California University stating he was leading a student field trip in Northumberland Canyon south of Austin, Nevada the previous weekend and they discovered the following:

We came across six horse carcasses, all missing their heads. This was very disturbing to the students and I am trying to figure out what happened. Was there planned culling of wild horses? Why would the heads be removed?

The headless remains of a Mustang found in northern Nevada taken by a student while on a geological field trip in the Austin area. May 2017.
The headless remains of a Mustang found in northern Nevada taken by a student while on a geological field trip in the Austin area. May 2017.

The Professor had not been able to reach the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) so reached out to us for assistance.

At long last I tracked down the right BLM office thanks to the coordinates the Professor provided.

After several email exchanges and a few phone calls with a BLM agent in that office, we made little progress figuring out what had happened to these Mustangs or why.

Here is a summary of those exchanges:

• It is highly likely these Mustangs were shot and killed. Although rare in the area, other wild horses have been shot and killed and left on the side of the road in much the same manner.

• The heads were either removed by trophy hunters or for use in local rituals. It is also possible someone discovered the carcasses and removed the skulls much later and cleaned them to use as relics. The heads are not missing because of scavengers.

• Due to the vastness and remoteness of the area it is close to impossible to find any witnesses. Investigators often have to rely on hearsay such as “someone bragging” about the kill.

My BLM contact agreed to talk with other field agents plus get in touch with the U.S. Forestry Service for their input.

A few days later my BLM contact reconnected to tell me that wild horses killed in suspicious circumstances do fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forestry Service and they would determine whether or not to investigate.

An agent of the U.S. Forestry Service contacted me with the following:

• They had discovered carcasses like these the previous year, perhaps even as early as Spring 2016, and they were “probably the same ones”.

• Due to the condition of the carcasses and the amount of time elapsed they have little to nothing to go on and did not feel it warranted the time and expense of an investigation. No one offered an explanation why they took no action at the time they first found the dead horses other than “it’s too hard”.

• They have come across dead Mustangs before where they suspected foul play and occasionally seen heads removed like this.

• The missing heads were not the result of scavenging.

It was never quite clear to me when coming across something like this, how they determine when it is worth investigating and when it is not.

The BLM and USFS were not the only ones. I also contacted a noted investigative reporter who also declined.

So Now What?

The agents I dealt with were responsive. Perhaps it ended the way it did with me at the direction of higher ups.

Yet wait a minute. Any way you look at it, murdering a Mustang is a federal crime. Murdering six. Leaving the six dead horses at the side of the same road. Removing their heads. Surely that warrants at least some looking into.

Something must be done or these murders, even if only committed sporadically, will continue.

I offered a reward for the arrest and conviction of these Mustang Murderers. The response?

I appreciate knowing about the reward and I will see how that might be promoted.

End of story? I thought so until a few minutes ago. We’ll let you know. Stay tuned.