3 more wild horses found shot

Authorities they were likely slain along with first 3 in Ochoco National Forest

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

Three more wild horses were found dead Friday in the Ochoco National Forest, shot like three others discovered earlier this month.

“They were likely shot at the same time,” said Capt. Dan Smith of the U.S. Forest Service.

A Forest Service law enforcement officer investigating the case found the second trio of horses near the site where three horses were discovered — two dead and one mortally wounded — on Oct. 12.

Hunters found the first three horses along Forest Road 22 near the junction with Forest Road 500. The horse clinging to life was put down.

All the horses were discovered within a small radius of one another north of Big Summit Prairie, said Gayle Hunt, president of the Prineville-based Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition. She said she went to the site of the shootings Saturday, and it appeared the horses were all members of the same band, mostly mares and their young.

“There is only one word to describe it, and that is a ‘massacre,’” she said.

Hunt said it looks as if the stallion, leader of the band, escaped the gunfire.

Whoever shot the horses could face felony animal abuse charges and federal charges. No arrests have been made in the case, and Forest Service law enforcement officers, as well as the Crook County Sheriff’s Office, are looking for tips from the public.

“We are still hoping to get information,” Smith said.

The Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition is offering at minimum a $1,500 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction, Hunt said.

A reward of at least $2,500 also still stands for a 2011 case of wild horses shot to death. The 2011 case also involved six wild horses, all found shot dead in the Ochoco National Forest. The horses were about 10 to 15 miles from the recent shootings. No arrests were made, and the Sheriff’s Office case remains open.

In all, about 100 wild horses roam the forests and rangeland near Big Summit Prairie, according to a count by the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition last spring. The herd is known as the Big Summit herd, or the Ochoco mustangs.

Anyone with information about either wild horse shooting should call the Forest Service at 541-383-5798 or the Sheriff’s Office at 541-447-6398. To contribute to the reward, call the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition at 541-447-8165.