As a winter storm rolled into the White Mountains just before the dawning of the new year, authorities discovered three wild horses shot dead in the Black Mesa Ranger District — the latest round of horse killings that have occurred around this time of year in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest over the past two years.
All three horses found on Thursday, Dec. 30, had evidence of bullet wounds, indicating that they had been shot with a firearm, according to a press release issued by the US Forest Service.
“The Forest Service is using all the resources at the agency’s disposal to investigate and put a halt to these destructive actions,” said Richard Madril, District Ranger for the Black Mesa Ranger District. “Our efforts are led by the work of our law enforcement officers, working hand in hand with the public. We believe that the people can help us get to the bottom of what has happened.”
The horse bands aren’t the only ones at risk because of the killings. Bald eagles have been observed feeding on the carcasses, which may put them and other scavengers at risk of death from lead poisoning from bullet fragments. Lead from bullets are affecting larger bird species, including bald eagles and vultures.
Although the number has not been confirmed by the Forest Service or law enforcement, the murders of three more Heber wild horses means that more than 30 horses have reportedly been shot and killed in ASNF in recent years. In January 2020, reports indicated that 15 horses that made up two family bands of stallions, mares and foals were found shot to death. And again in January 2021, four more horses were found dead of gunshot wounds; a foal at the location was injured also and had to be euthanized.
Horse advocates and those who are regularly out in forest to monitor or photograph the horses believe that the killings are occurring when there is a window of opportunity for someone — or more than one person — to go into the forest and shoot the horses without being observed because fewer people are out there when it’s cold or the weather is bad.
Could the killer be a seasonal visitor, acting alone or with others during fall and winter months?
Locals don’t think so, believing that whoever is committing these killings against federally protected horses is someone who is also local — somebody who knows the forest well and is very familiar with the service roads that run through the forest.
Although the pro-horse public appears to be sickened by these killings, as evidenced by their comments on the ASNF Facebook page announcing the shootings, those who believe the wild horse populations are too large to be sustained by the land on which they live advocate for “culling the herds,” much the way that deer and elk populations are thinned.
“We have sound management programs for big game hunting that includes pronghorn and bighorn sheep that only allow a single tag in a lifetime. There’s no reason why we can’t have the same for wild horses and burros,” wrote a user who goes by the name of Arizona Backcountry Explorers.
The Forest Service is working with the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the killings, but officials have been tight-lipped with information.
“Saying ‘We cannot comment on an ongoing investigation’ over and over gives me heartburn,” said Jeffrey Todd, Forest Public Affairs Officer with ASNF, adding. “I want this/these criminal(s) caught and brought to justice.”
Other than saying that the dead horses underwent necropsies and the carcasses were buried, Todd said he was unable to comment on the location where the horses were found, what type of evidence might have been recovered at the scene or what tips they’ve received from the public.
Officials are asking anyone with information to contact them by calling 928-524-4050. A $10,000 reward is being offered for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for these acts of violence.
Students at Blue Ridge High School are opening a business.
An in-school store, to be exact.
The “Student Store” will have its grand opening at Blue Ridge High on Monday, Jan. 10.
Members of Future Business Leaders of America got the idea to open a store as a way to earn money to travel to and attend competitions with other FBLA groups.
“FBLA put out a guide to help us get started,” said Jackson Woods, Student Store president and a freshman at Blue Ridge High School. “We’re kind of figuring it out on our own, but this is all part of Future Business Leaders. It’s just a good life skill to have, managing and running a business.”
In addition to Woods and FBLA/Student Store advisor Jeffrey Robinson, seven other students will be active in running the store, which will be open before school, during the lunch hour, after school and between classes.
The store will be stocked with school supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils and highlighters, as well as snacks that will be available for hungry students. In addition, the store will sell Blue Ridge apparel — hats, T-shirts and jackets — that will enable students to show school spirit both in school and at Blue Ridge events.
“The Student Store here at BRHS will hopefully become a yearly thing,” said Woods, who, at 14, hopes to eventually start his own business. “The team and I have honestly had a lot of fun putting this all together and we really hope that it will be a success! It has been a long time in the making, actually since August — and from cleaning out the classroom to meeting with administration on both school and district levels, it has really been satisfying to see this all coming together.”
The store will operate from a classroom that had previously been used for an elective that is no longer offered at the school.
Students spent about five hours cleaning out the classroom and turning it into a store. According to Woods, students had to move things out and clean up to create a store space. The classroom also has an adjacent office that will be used for accounting purposes.
“Even though the store is originally meant for FBLA,” said advisor Jeffrey Robinson, “we hope to expand the store to be able to provide funds for all career and technical education clubs — chess, robotics, etc.”
Individuals who also helped the Student Store become a reality were Barb Simington, district liaison, and Loren Webb, Blue Ridge High School principal. The Blue Ridge High School Maintenance Department also gets a shout-out.
Woods said that the vast majority of students involved in the project hope to start a business one day, or be the head of a business.
He himself has such ambitions.
“My dream is to become a mechanical engineer,” he said. “I want to go to work at a firm, and then eventually start my own firm.”
Twelve years after two middle-aged guys first sallied forth in a van, eager to root through other people’s junk along the back roads of America, the crew of “American Pickers” is coming to Arizona to see what they can find here in collectors’ basements, barns and backyards.
“Part of this is outreach,” said Thomas Carrera, lead researcher for the popular show that airs on the History Channel. “We’re looking for leads throughout the state. The way we find people and collections for our show is by spreading the word far and wide so people know we’re coming to town. We’ll go anywhere in the state as long as there’s a pick there. People call in and we try to get to them.”
The “Pickers” team will be coming to The Grand Canyon State the first two weeks of March, looking for different, unusual and unique items. If you have items that qualify, the show wants to hear from you.
As regular viewers know, the original pickers — Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz — spent years driving around the country, with direction from Danielle Colby, manager of Wolfe’s Antique Archeology stores, looking for such finds as antique motorcycles, vintage toys, old tin gas station signage, pinball machines, memorabilia and more.
But it’s the stories and life experiences of the collectors the pickers have met that makes the show a favorite of fans.
“Odd and weird and interesting is what we look for,” Carrera said, “and people with good stories to share and tell. Our show is 40 to 60 percent about what they have, and the other 50 to 60 percent is the person’s story — how they got into (collecting).”
The pickers only pick private collections — meaning no stores, malls, flea markets, museums, auctions, businesses or anything open to the public.
Although Fritz seems to be permanently off of the show due to health issues and some reported friction with Wolfe, the latter is still trolling the country with the likes of Colby, Jersey Jon or his brother, Robbie Wolfe, riding shotgun.
Collectors, hoarders and junk owners who think they have interesting items the pickers might want — and who would like to be considered to appear on the show — can reach out to “American Pickers” by phone at 646-493-2184, or email the show at AmericanPickers@cineflix.com.
Those who’d like to be considered for the show should include their full name, city and state, contact information and a brief description of their collection or what they have to offer.
“We do the phone calls now, screen people and ask them what they have,” Carrera said. “It’s always fun to see what people are hiding in their backyards.”