Ochoco horse killers sought

The Saturday discovery echoes another 2011 case

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

Published Oct 17, 2013 at 05:00AM

Deer hunters made the grisly discovery Saturday evening of three wild horses that had been shot in the Ochoco National Forest.

Two of the animals, an adult and young horse, were already dead when a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement went to check on the report early Sunday morning, said Capt. Dan Smith, of the U.S. Forest Service in Bend. The third, another adult, wasn't moving and was barely alive.

“So he had to put the animal down,” he said.

Initial reports Tuesday had all three animals found dead. The Forest Service and the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office are seeking information about who might have shot the horses, which were found north of Big Summit Prairie. They were likely shot about a week earlier. The shooter or shooters could face felony animal cruelty charges, as well as other federal charges.

Authorities were at a loss to explain why someone would shoot a wild horse.

“It is just an absolutely horrible thing,” said Crook County Sheriff's Sgt. James Savage.

The scenario bears similarities to a 2011 case in which six wild horses were found shot dead, four adults and two young animals, he said. That case remains open, but has gone cold.

“We haven't been able to come up with a suspect yet,” Savage said.

The horses found dead in 2011 were about 10 to 15 miles from the latest discovery, he said. The wild horses discovered over the weekend were along Forest Road 22, which he said is a remote but well-traveled road. The horses were about 100 feet from the road and near the junction with Forest Road 500.

“It is right (near) the Wheeler County line,” Savage said. “Way up in the forest.”

For the 2011 shooting and for the new case, the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition is offering rewards for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

There is still about $2,500 being offered for information in the 2011 case, and the reward for the new case started at $1,100, but will likely go up as people offer money to add to it, said Gayle Hunt, president of the nonprofit group based in Prineville.

The horses shot in both cases belonged to the Big Summit herd of wild horses, also known as the Ochoco Mustangs. A census of the horses last spring by the group showed more than 100 horses in the herd.

She said the reasons why someone might shoot a wild horse could be rooted in the ongoing debates about the animals. People could be mad, and willing to shoot a wild horse, she said because they feel they are taking forage from deer or elk, or grazing on land suited for cattle.

Although they are called wild, she said wild horses are naturally trusting of people and won't run away, so whoever shot the horses in the Ochoco likely didn't have to contend with a moving target.

“It's not a great feat to shoot one,” Hunt said.

Tip line

Tip line

If you have any information about the recent shooting of wild horses in the Ochoco National Forest call U.S. Forest Service law enforcement at 541-383-5798 or the Crook County Sheriff's Office at 541-447-6398.

To contribute to the reward being offered for information in the case call the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition at at 541-447-8165.

If you have any information about the recent shooting of wild horses in the Ochoco National Forest, call U.S. Forest Service law enforcement at 541-383-5798 or the Crook County Sheriff's Office at 541-447-6398. To contribute to the reward being offered for information in the case, call the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition at 541-447-8165 .