Apache-Sitgreaves Forest officials investigate wild horse deaths on federal land

Horse advocate organizations are offering a $35,000 reward for any tips that lead to the suspect who shot and killed wild alpine horses.
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 10:13 PM MST
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SPRINGERVILLE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Twenty-five wild horses were found shot and killed on Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest land this month. It’s outraged many animal rights advocates while renewing the debate over what’s best for the horses long-term. “It’s absolutely horrendous for us to find these animals that have been shot,” said Simone Netherlands, Salt River Wild Horse Management Group President, and Co-Founder.

For Netherlands, these alpine horses aren’t just beautiful animals, they’re a crucial part of the Apache-Sitgreaves’ forest history. “What’s lacking here is protection for these horses,” she said. “And we are going to work very hard to see if there any legislators here in Arizona that want to give these horses their rightful protections.”

An Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest spokesperson recently said in a press release that forest representatives are working with other groups to investigate the dead horses. That’s something Center for Biological Diversity co-founder Robin Silver fully supports. “Those are horrific,” he said. “There’s no excuse for that. And they shouldn’t be happening.”

Silver says it’s important that these dead horses don’t get in the way of the ongoing removal process. “They’ve been severely damaging the upper-elevation meadows and streams within the Black River watershed. And again, unfortunately, that’s causing a local extinction.” Silver’s referring to not just permanent damage to forest lands, but the impact the horses have on endangered species like the New Mexico Jumping Mouse.

Netherlands argues it’s cattle, not these wild horses, that are responsible for the bulk of the damage. “Why didn’t they reduce the cattle grazing in the same area?” she asked. “Instead, they scapegoated the wild horses and they blamed them for all of the environmental damage.” As Netherlands pushes for justice for the dead horses, she worries about more horses dying and the long-term future of these horses. “If we don’t find a legislator willing to support these horses, then there will not be any left.”

If you’d like to contribute to the GoFundMe that increases the reward for information on who killed these wild horses, click here.