Photo By Dexter K. Oliver: This U.S. Forest Service-entrusted horse named Snip died a particularly painful death from dehydration during the summer of 2016. Snip’s death, along with another horse named Diesel and a mule, Little Bit, led to an investigation into the employees responsible. Now the Forest Service is investigating multiple horse deaths, many of which have gunshot wounds.
Contributed Article/Courtesy U.S. Forest Service
SPRINGERVILLE – Over the past months, several deceased horses have been discovered in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNFs). Forest Service law enforcement and equine experts continue ongoing investigations into the deaths of these horses.
Since October 2018, 16 deceased horses have been located on the ASNFs Black Mesa Ranger District. Of the 16 deceased horses, 12 were located outside of the Heber Wild Horse Territory (HWHT) near Forest Roads 144, 146, and 50. On Feb 7, four additional deceased horses were discovered inside of the HWHT near 300 RD.
There are a variety of factors that may lead to horse deaths, which can include accidents, natural causes, predation, and shootings. When it is determined that a horse’s death was due to a gunshot wound, the investigation can be complex, as the burden of proof must be rock solid for potential use in court. Our law enforcement officers strive to reach that burden of proof, and that is why these investigations are often lengthy and complex. At this time, our investigations appear to indicate that 10 of the deceased horses have evidence of gunshot wounds, five were severely decomposed and the cause of death remains undetermined, and one died of blunt force trauma usually associated with a motor vehicle collision.
Forest Service law enforcement is employing additional resources to help with these ongoing investigations. This includes working with both the Navajo County and Coconino County Sheriff’s Offices, deploying an additional team to conduct necropsies, utilizing drones to monitor the large area, increasing the amount of law enforcement officers in the area, and encouraging local and statewide media outlets to provide accurate information and an avenue for the public to submit any tips. We ask the public to pass along all tips to the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office tip line, 1-800-78CRIME.
The Forest Service has been in contact with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in order to quickly bring any potential perpetrators to justice. We are continuing our faceted investigation and encourage the public to provide any tips or additional information.