The Heber Wild Horses Freedom Preservation Alliance is a grassroots group that advocates to keep the Heber herd in the wild and protected as is mandated by federal law. Being boots on the ground in the forest, keeping track of the horses and documenting the bands are some of the numerous functions that we do.
Our team discovered several of the horses that had been fatally shot during the shooting spree last January.
Our team went out to every horse that was found dead. We took photos, videos and logged into our records every horse that fell victim. Bullet holes were apparent in several horses. We compiled a timeline which included the responses of the USFS law enforcement and the Navajo County Sheriff’s Department. We saw no indication of an immediate investigative process taking place by USDA Forest Service Law Enforcement officers.
In our opinion the investigative response was slow and lackadaisical. More recently an eye witness account was called in regarding a man shooting at wild horses. The Forest Service never even bothered to go out to the scene to interview the eyewitness or suspect.
On January 22, 2019 the Sheriff’s Department notified us that a black stallion was found dead. A dead bay mare found in close proximity. The stallion was a wild horse called Raven. We saw what appeared to be a bullet hole in Raven’s head and a shattered leg bone that could have resulted from having been shot. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer John Lopez was at the scene. His investigation consisted of turning over Raven’s body. The bay mare was looked at by a Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer, but there was no real investigation done on her at that time.
A citizen told us that Officer Lopez mentioned a veterinarian was going to be out to do a necropsy on the two horses. Two of our people stayed with the bodies until dusk to keep predators away. No veterinarian came.
Over the days that passed our team continued to monitor the roads and carcasses. More dead horses were found that appeared to have been shot at the same time as Raven and the mare. Eight days after Raven and the mare were found shot, with no further inspection being done on the horses by the Forest Service, one of our team called Officer Lopez and left a detailed voice mail asking for permission to bring our own veterinarian to do necropsies. The next day Officer Lopez advised our team member that he was bringing in a veterinarian to do necropsies the following day.
The next day necropsies were done. It was officially determined that many of the horses had been shot including the black stallion, Raven. Some bodies were too decomposed to be able to determine the cause of death. It was 10 days after Raven’s body had been discovered before the Forest Service had a veterinarian perform necropsies.
Mary Hauser is a Heber Wild Horses Freedom Preservation Alliance Team Member