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.

Nevada Public Radio: Will wild horses be dragged away?

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Wild Horses) — There is an interesting program on wild horses on Nevada Public Radio.

The article gives us this grim reminder, “Secretary of the Department of the Interior Ryan Zinke supported measures for horse slaughter when he was a Montana Congressman.”

What we found most helpful was in public comments, written by Marybeth Devlin, which should give anyone interested in America’s wild horses, whether you are new or have been following this issue for a long time. Here is what Devlin wrote:

1. Overpopulation: Is the Big Lie, the pretext for BLM’s war against the wild horses. According to the guidelines of BLM’s own geneticist, the arbitrary management levels (AMLs) of 83% of wild-horse herds — and 90% of wild-burro herds — are set below minimum-viable population (MVP).

2. Normal Rates: Horses are slow to multiply. Gestation lasts 11 months, and a mare produces 1 foal. Per independent research, the average herd-growth rate of wild horses is 5%, while the growth rate of burro herds is 2%.

3. Bogus Rates: BLM reports growth rates orders-of-magnitude higher than normal. Here are a few examples of biologically-impossible 1-year increases reported by BLM for herds in Nevada: Eagle Herd 52% — 10 times the norm, Silver King Herd 109% — 22 times the norm, and Lava Beds Herd (burros) 775% — 388 times the norm. These false figures have been called to the attention of BLM, but the data have not been corrected.

4. Criminal: By publishing false information, BLM appears to be violating Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, which prohibits making false or fraudulent statements knowingly and willfully. BLM also appears to be in violation of the Information Quality Act and the Department of the Interior’s Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct, which require it to disseminate information obtained through “as rigorous scientific and scholarly processes as can be achieved.”

5. Overgrazing, Under-Billing: It is the millions of non-native livestock that are degrading the public lands. BLM lets ranchers self-report whether they run cattle or not, and then bills them accordingly. If permittees don’t report use, BLM doesn’t bill them. BLM calls it “voluntary non-use.” According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, the direct and indirect costs of the Federal Grazing Program may result in the loss of as much as $1,000,000,000 — that’s one billion (1,000 million!) dollars — every year.

6. Rogue Permittees: Conditions are egregious, particularly in Nevada, where permittees defy BLM’s authority to rest allotments from grazing. The renegade ranchers go ahead and put cattle out on the range anyway, despite the drought. But instead of penalizing the scofflaws, BLM panders to them, waiving fines and allowing the illegal grazing to continue. As the Cliven Bundy affair evidenced, BLM has lost control of the range. BLM administrators are intimidated by aggressive ranchers and their “Oath Keeper” supporters, heavily armed with sights trained on BLM employees. So, BLM has kowtowed to the graziers, whether or not they have a valid permit, submit required reports, pay their grazing-fees, comply with the grazing-season, or recognize BLM’s authority.

7. Resource v. Use: Wild horses and burros are a resource of the public lands — like other wildlife. Commercial livestock-grazing, in contrast, is a use of the public lands. The distinction between a resource and a use is important and — as Clarke and Leigh (2016) pointed out — that difference needs to be understood. Livestock-grazing (a use) negatively impacts wild horses and burros (a resource).

8. PEER Reveal: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) found that BLM’s method of assessing range conditions is skewed to minimize impacts from domestic livestock and to magnify those from wild horses and burros. BLM thus favors “use” and blames “resource.”

9. Predators: The right way to right-size the wild-horse population is Nature’s way — predators. But those predators — mountain lions, bears, wolves, and coyotes — are persecuted mercilessly. Herd-areas must be made safe for predators. Cost: $0.

10. Restore Habitat: For political expediency, BLM closed 22,229,731 acres of the mustangs’ original habitat. That land must be reopened, and the captive wild horses and burros returned to their range. Cost: $0.

By the way, “The BLM declined to be interviewed for this panel.”

• Go here to listen and read related article.

If you plan to comment, you must stay on topic and debate the issue in a civil manner with no name calling and mudslinging. If that is not clear enough, please see our comment policy. Thank you!

Wild Horses Nevada. Andy Barron / AP Photo.


Advocates defeat Appeal to round up wild horses in Nevada and send them to slaughter

RENO, Nev. — Wild horse advocates in Nevada scored a victory Monday in an ongoing legal battle with rural interests they say want to round up federally protected mustangs across the West and sell them for slaughter.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied an appeal by the Nevada Association of Counties and Nevada Farm Bureau Federation representing ranchers and others who argue overpopulated herds are damaging the range and robbing livestock of forage.

The decision upholds an earlier ruling by a federal judge in Reno who dismissed their lawsuit in 2015 seeking to force the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to expedite widespread roundups across Nevada.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld a similar decision in Wyoming in October.

In both cases, the American Wild Horse Campaign and others argued the courts have no authority to order the agency to gather horses in violation of the U.S. Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Continue reading at The Republic online »

Associated Press; by Scott Sonner; April 3, 2017

Wild Horses Nevada. Andy Barron / AP Photo.

Pickens’ wild horses murdered while wild horse enemy Salazar given special appointment by Hillary

What the heck is going on? Why do America’s wild horses have such bitter enemies? Is it really about the land? Or perhaps it’s about water rights.

One of the country’s top journalists, George Knapp, who has been investigating the wild horse and burro issue in Nevada for years, turned in a story that reports in part:

Caslon Quote Left BlackLAS VEGAS (August 17, 2016) — A reward of $100,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons who caused the deaths of a dozen or more horses in Nevada.

The mustangs were on a private reserve in Elko County created to save wild horses from going to slaughter.

The owner of the property calls it an act of terrorism, and in light of what was done, it clearly was no accident. The images are graphic.

The dead horses were discovered over the weekend on a 12,000 acre parcel, part of a much larger ranch owned by philanthropist Madeleine Pickens south of Wells, Nevada.

One of the dead animals was a Pickens favorite, a small brown mare she named Scarlet. In one of the images, Pickens is kneeling with Scarlet’s carcass.

Also dead, at least 11 other mustangs that had previously been saved from the slaughterhouse by Pickens. Dozens of other horses are missing.

Sometime in the last week or so, unknown persons vandalized several gates on the large enclosed preserve. Fences were cut, and worst of all, all of the water pumps were disabled, meaning the mustangs had no water for days. Most died of thirst in the summer heat. The I-Team spoke to Mrs. Pickens by phone Wednesday afternoon.

“No question, this was not an accident. This wasn’t just one well that went dry or something in the solar panel didn’t work. Everything was shut off, cut off, fences were cut and rolled back. They wanted all the horses to escape. They shut off the water holes so they couldn’t drink,” Pickens said.

Read full report, see video report »

In a different setting altogether we learned this today:

Caslon Quote Left BlackTwo big issues dogged Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary: the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP) and fracking. She had a long history of supporting both.

Under fire from Bernie Sanders, she came out against the TPP and took a more critical position on fracking. But critics wondered if this was a sincere conversion or simply campaign rhetoric.

Now, in two of the most significant personnel moves she will ever make, she has signaled a lack of sincerity.

She chose as her vice presidential running mate Tim Kaine, who voted to authorize fast-track powers for the TPP and praised the agreement just two days before he was chosen.

And now she has named former Colorado Democratic Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to be the chair of her presidential transition team — the group tasked with helping set up the new administration should she win in November. That includes identifying, selecting, and vetting candidates for over 4,000 presidential appointments.

As a senator, Salazar was widely considered a reliable friend to the oil, gas, ranching and mining industries. As interior secretary, he opened the Arctic Ocean for oil drilling, and oversaw the botched response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Since returning to the private sector, he has been an ardent supporter of the TPP, while pushing back against curbs on fracking.

Read more »

In case you wonder why I am so disgusted that Clinton would appoint the evil Salazar it is because of his constant interference and anti-wild horse activities.

If that’s not enough for you, how about this?

It is Salazar’s ranch hand Tom Davis who made money selling hundreds of America’s federally protected Mustangs to slaughter. Many more wild horses are also unaccounted for from the Salazar era. Davis was never arrested or prosecuted though he admittedly committed this crime — a federal crime to boot. I think there is little doubt where the others ended up.

All of this took place under Obama’s nose who never expressed a moment’s concern though he was inundated in the early years of his Presidency by wild horse and burro advocates to help. Even the most devout among them eventually gave up and pursued other means. In the meantime, Obama did not help but instead supported the loathsome, hot headed Salazar.

The Nevada quarter features three wild horses roaming freely. Three is about all that may be left if the BLM have its way.
The Nevada quarter features three wild horses roaming freely. Three is about all that may be left if the BLM have its way.

I am loyal to neither the Democratic nor the Republican party because both let the United States and its citizens down on a regular basis in often egregious ways. No wonder the Millenials are heard to say they have “no hope”. I am an old timer (comparatively speaking) and I am right there with them.

America is in bad, bad trouble. So are America’s Mustangs. Tragic. They could just leave them alone. But no, that’s too easy. And not in cruel Nevada. Or this morally decaying country. Who is going to turn it around? Not the current suspects for President that’s for sure.

Wild mares held by the BLM in Palomino Valley in extreme heat with no shade. YouTube image.