ALPINE, Ariz. — “We’ve been finding dead horse after dead horse," Simone Netherlands said. "It’s been absolutely horrific.”
Fifteen so far, she said. All were shot and left for scavengers near Forest Road 25 on the Alpine and Springerville Ranger Districts.
"Shots to the heart and to the face, to the neck, and some of these horses are still alive, just walking around with bullets," Netherlands added.
The US Forest Service is investigating this latest rash of horse killings in Northern Arizona. There have been over 50 horses killed since 2018.
These are not trail-riding horses. They don't live in a stable, and they don't belong to anyone. But that doesn't automatically make them "wild."
"Wild horses" are a very specific thing. If a horse is wild, it has federal protection. The Salt River horses are an established wild herd.
But the horses near Alpine, despite not having an owner, have not been recognized by the federal government as "wild." Netherlands said they're considered "unauthorized livestock" and have no federal protection.
Netherlands and other horse advocates have been trying to overturn that decision. A volunteer was cataloging the horses when they started finding the bodies.
“They even watched one of the baby horses die right in front of them," Netherlands said.
Horse killings have been happening in northern Arizona for years but started to gain attention in 2018.
Dozens of horses have been killed near Heber, Ariz., about two hours from Alpine. A handful of others were killed near Alpine in January.
Netherlands said whoever killed these 14 was especially cruel. She said most were shot in the chest, heart, or lungs. Some were killed with a bullet to the head. Some of her pictures show two horses lying next to each other with head wounds.
Netherlands is hoping to raise that reward even more by crowdfunding through a GoFundMe account.
Up to Speed
Catch up on the latest news and stories on the 12News YouTube channel. Subscribe today.