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Someone is shooting wild horses in southern Utah and the West. Why?

Advocacy group demands answers from government agencies

SHARE Someone is shooting wild horses in southern Utah and the West. Why?
Wild horses run near Wendover, Utah.

Wild horses run near Wendover, Utah, on Aug. 19, 2011. The shooting deaths of 16 wild horses from a high-powered rifle in San Juan County continue to remain unsolved and are similar to other wild horse shootings in two separate locations in Arizona.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The shooting deaths of 16 wild horses from a high-powered rifle in San Juan County continue to remain unsolved and are similar to other wild horse shootings in two separate locations in Arizona.

“We demand a thorough investigation by the Bureau of Land Management and San Juan County officials to determine who is shooting these beautiful wild horses,” said Lynda Logan, of Advocates for Wild Equines. “This is a very serious case of animal cruelty, and the perpetrators must be stopped and brought to justice before more horses are brutally killed.”

What’s happened: Logan said the 16 horses were found along state Route 162 between Montezuma Creek and Bluff. The first body was discovered on Jan. 3 by local resident Wayne Yanito.

“I was on my way to work when I noticed the first horse, a paint. I went to take a closer look and observed obvious gunshot wounds. As I drove to higher ground, I saw the bodies of more horses who were shot to death,” Yanito said, adding the incident was reported to San Juan County officials but the shootings have continued.

Whose horses are they? Logan said there are no herd management areas in that part of Utah, so it is possible that the wild horses crossed the San Juan River onto BLM’s grazing lease allotments from the Navajo Nation or migrated there from the canyons and forests to the west, where wild horses have been spotted. The unbranded horses were found on several BLM grazing allotments.

An overabundance of so-called “tribal horses” at one time led the Navajo Nation to consider a “hunt” in which members could buy a $10 tag to kill a feral horse. Public pressure led to its cancellation.

“Most of the bodies were close to the road, and these horses could have easily been shot from a vehicle. We counted 16 bodies but had to go home when the sun went down. There could be more, and we will continue to comb the area. There is no reason for these senseless killings, no love for horses, and we hope the shooter will be identified and brought to justice,” said Curtis Yanito, who helped his brother last weekend to find additional bodies.

Logan said the shootings are similar to the recent killing of at least 25 horses on U.S. Forest Service land in Alpine, Arizona, as well as the shootings of wild horses in Heber, Arizona.

At this point, it is unclear if the BLM has launched an investigation. Logan said anyone with information should contact her at 480-888-5019 or email coreteam@advocatesforwildequines.com. Tipsters can remain anonymous.