Unedited article from The Casper Star-Tribune
“Have Wyoming’s Welfare Ranchers Raised the Bar on their Wild Horse War?”
THERMOPOLIS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says it’s investigating the killing of 21 stray horses on federal and state land northwest of Thermopolis.
A BLM spokesperson said the horses were found Wednesday. Investigators believe they were killed sometime in the last two weeks.
Wild horses also roam parts of northern Wyoming but BLM spokeswoman Sarah Beckwith said Friday these horses were stray domestic horses.
The horses were abandoned on public land and have been seen running loose for the past few years, Beckwith said.
Beckwith declined to provide additional information including whether the horses may have been shot or poisoned. She said the BLM doesn’t want to compromise the investigation by federal, state and local officials by disclosing too much information.
The BLM is offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved.
The Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Department, state officials and a local brand inspector are assisting with the investigation, according to a news release.
In 2010, the Hot Springs County undersheriff shot and killed a horse 100 feet from its owner’s home because he assumed it had been neglected and decided to put it out of its misery.
Chris and Larry Bentley later settled a lawsuit with former undersheriff David Larson, who agreed to pay the cost of the horse along with legal fees.
In a separate suit, a jury awarded the couple $25,000, saying a Sheriff’s Department policy that allowed deputies to kill sickly or dangerous animals was too broad and infringed on the Bentleys’ constitutional rights.
Under Wyoming law, abandoned horses that come under the care of the state can be sold to cover the cost of their care, or euthanized by a veterinarian.
People who abandon horses can be required to pay costs required for the state to round up and care for the animals, and may face fines or jail time.