Horse Health

Update: Former Wild Horses found dead, $100K reward offered to find culprits who sabotaged horse preserve

Story by I-Team’s George Knapp on

A dozen or more wild mustangs at a preserve in Elko County died of thirst after someone disabled all of their water sources.

A reward of $100,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible for a disturbing act of animal cruelty.  WARNING: Some of the images you are about to see are disturbing.

A dozen or more wild mustangs at a preserve in Elko County died of thirst after someone disabled all of their water sources.  The mustangs were living at the preserve because they were rescued by businesswoman Madeleine Pickens.  In addition to the dead horses, dozens of others are now missing.

“They got little Scarlet,” Pickens said.  “She wasn’t a pony — just a small horse. She was so sweet.”

Pickens said when she arrived Monday afternoon to her Elko County ranch, one of the first dead horses she saw was a mare known at the ranch as Scarlet. Pickens named her.

The withered remains of 11 more Mustangs were found in and around the water sources that had been installed for the horses. Each of the pumps and wells used to provide water to the horses had been sabotaged, disabled, dried up, which meant the 60 or so horses living in that sector had no water in the summer heat.

Reward: $100,000 offered

“The horses know where all the water is,” Pickens said.  “Every one of them was off, so all they could do is die of thirst, and it’s not a  pretty death. It’s horrible to see them laying there.”

It’s not the first time Picken’s property has been vandalized.  She’s spent seven years, along with $25 million turning a barren, overgrazed cattle ranch into the 600,000 acre Mustang Monument.

The Mustang Monument is an eco-resort and sanctuary for 700 or more wild horses which were ransomed and rescued by Pickens before they could be sent to a slaughterhouse.

However, due to the continued opposition by the BLM and Elko County officials — the eco-resort is closed. Pickens and her staff still operate the monument as a self-sustaining foundation, and when she’s on the property, she helps feed the Mustangs.

The sabotage occurred in the northeast corner of the property, more than an hour’s drive from the main ranch house.  Ranch hands check every week on the herd living out there. They found the carnage over the weekend.

But it was more than random vandalism. Every gate was open and every fence was cut and laid down. A few horses were still alive when they were found, but they were too weak to stand.

“I feel so guilty because I rescued these horses from the killer-buyers and from going to slaughterhouses,” Pickens said.  “They’re on a 12,000-acre private piece of land — all fenced in with wells and springs — and they should be safe. But some hoodlums, some outlaws come in and kill them.”

Pickens staff contacted the Elko Sheriff’s Office, but they’re not confident there will be much of an investigation, so Wednesday afternoon, she told the 8 News NOW I-Team she was offering a reward of $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible.

“I’m in shock. It’s so disturbing when you drive by and see these beautiful bodies lying on the ground,” Pickens said.

If you have any information regarding these crimes against Saving America’s Mustangs and Mustang Monument, please call Rean Wegley immediately at 858-759-5517 or contact her by email on

The I-Team had recently visited Mustang Monument as part of a planned news series.

43 replies »

  1. I am so sorry Madeleine. Cameras and drones. These folks who kill animals for a living, it affects them. You have to turn off you empathy to do it. It is well documented that animal abuse and human abuse go hand in hand.

    It is time to utilize horse tourism but folks are stuck in the past. In NM we make over 11 billion/yr from tourism and less than 2 Billion from live”stock”. Still the NM gov. Squashes the huge tourism asset wild horse tourism.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. From Live Science

    FBI Targets Animal Cruelty as a Serious Crime

    A recent decision by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) means animal cruelty crimes will soon be included within the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) – National Incident Based Reporting System

    When this change goes into effect in 2015, federal law will regard animal cruelty as a crime against society and a Group A offense, a category that includes crimes of a serious nature, including arson, burglary, kidnapping and homicide.

    One of the reasons for this change may stem from the numerous studies which suggest animal cruelty is a red flag for future violent crimes against humans. The FBI has been aware of this link for decades.

    The National Sheriffs’ Association is committed to providing law enforcement officers with information about the realities of animal abuse and its close link to other crimes,” said Thompson. “We are gratified by the FBI’s response and [FBI] Director Comey’s commitment to improve public safety.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. She needs to have 24/7 security patrolling these lands apparently. I can guarantee you it wasn’t just a random act of violence. I’ll bet ten to the dozen that the ranchers and BLM are behind this. They want all the mustangs and burros dead.


  4. The land is gorgeous. If the horses are constantly under threat from the BLM and human exploitative interests, this is the next best thing and saves them from carelessness and slaughter. People can even contribute to it, I know I’d be thrilled to. Instead of ‘kill buyers’ – life buyers.

    I do hope whoever is responsible is caught and held accountable.


  5. Can someone please explain the reasons the BLM and the Elko Commissioners have evidently been in conflict with this sanctuary? It seems they are promoting this very model elsewhere. If Pickens owns the land, owns the water, and owns the horses, what is their argument AGAINST her private property rights?

    Liked by 2 people

    • They don’t want “animal rights” anywhere near their pseudo-medieval fiefdoms. You must see this is a true hate crime, just like the assassination of Martin Luther King.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Daniel, I was asking what the back story was which hinted at ongoing conflict between the BLM and the sanctuary. Since the BLM is actually promoting creation of wild horse sanctuaries, it would seem they have no motive to commit such illegal acts. What evidence is there the BLM is complicit here? It may or may not exist, I honestly do not know, which is why I asked.


      • It is not very clear Icy, but I think it has something to do with the “commercial use” of mustangs to attract tourists, some sort of self-styled, crazy reinterpretation of the WFHBA to fit the cattelemen’s agenda. Of course this is total nonsense since there are similar sanctuaries in other states, but of course those other states aren’t Redneckistan, Elko County, NV.

        I’m sure they would let her operate her resort if she took the horses to Illinois or New York. The whole thing is about making a point: grass in Elko belongs to Cliven Bundy’s cows and only cows, for the profit of the local cattle baron, will graze it.

        Madeleine could be running instead a bighorn or a child sanctuary and the results would be the same: they don’t want outsiders and moderns to come any close their inbred societies and poorly managed businesses, lest they bring some refreshing change.


      • I agree 100%, I have lived in NV, and that is their redneck philosophy exactly, all animals are their “property”, and that’s it, there is no room for consideration for an individual animals life, especially when it gets in the way of a dollar of revenue. They literally walk around armed and think like they are in the “old west” still, where they make any rouge laws “they” (the “good ol boys”) want.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed. The problem is that while people in the old west carried guns because it was a lawless, dangerous place full of vagrants, coinmen and assassins (which were mainly employed by these cattle barons than stole the land from their rightful owners), right now it is not so, since we have the rule of the law, which these guys seem to ignore.

        Nations, like people, evolve. They grow up, mature. To keep clinging to their old ways indefinitely is just like the Taliban trying to keep a lifestyle from the deep middle age.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Daniel, lots of speculation here but few facts. As I understand it, Madeline owns the land, the horses, the grass, and the water, so there is no gain to any “evil ranchers” even if all the horses were killed.

        All those rednecks you ridicule are characteristically pro private property rights, so none of your arguments fit this situation. I’m sorry the original article didn’t include some reference to what the conflicts hinted at involved.

        PS I’ve lived in the west all my life, and can assure you it still includes plenty of vagrants, conmen, and criminals, as well as plenty of law abiding people who carry weapons without incident. You are conflating some wide-eyed opinions pretty loosely here, and it is far from relevant or even helpful for this sad situation. I guess I will look elsewhere for some facts.


      • I agree with Daniel, and said I believe it was BLM agents before Daniel’s comment, if not the ranchers, it doesn’t matter whose land it is, they think they have a right to do what they want, they have proven this time and time again with the Wolves, Bears, Coyotes, Buffalo, with cold calculated killing. Please watch the “War on Wildlife”. As I said earlier, I was a previous NV resident, and actually, I was married to a gov. official, from my perspective, I have a hard time believing it was rouge criminals.


      • Thanks. However it should be noted that I don’t think BLM staff or the land commissioners were directly involved in the attack, but they probably know who did / ordered it, and tacitly condone and cover it up.

        There’s kind of an idiom in Spanish for what happened which is “puertohurraquismo” (don’t bother to look it up cause you won’t find a translation). Long story short, I would start investigating the surrounding properties to see if there is any conflict for water and forage access with nearby cattle allotments, or disgruntled former employees that could be seeking to retaliate on the horses.

        If none could be found then this was most likely ordered by somebody higher up on the ol’boys’ command chain.


      • Sorry that you took it that way Icy, it wasn’t my intention to offend you or any respectable western citizen, but I can relate that’s how the rest of the civilized world sees it, unfortunately. And regrettably incidents like these killings only underpin that point of view.

        As for the facts surrounding the Mustang Monument, the only clear information is that Pickens was denied the permits needed to operate the resort, unless she surrendered the water and grazing rights. This is is from one of the email alerts she sent to her mailing list:

        «From: Madeleine Pickens []
        Sent: Monday, March 21, 2016 10:48 PM
        To: REDACTED
        Subject: Support Each Other & The Mustangs


        Please do not be taken in by the BLM when they tell you they are moving forward or even making progress on the Mustang Monument project. Five years into the process we have very little to show for our efforts and a number of unresolvable issues have been put on the table by the BLM. One of the more recent approaches the BLM chose to employ was to suggest that I surrender both the grazing and water rights to the ranch in which I have invested over $25 million. An action such as this would make the ranch devoid of any value. This is what third world dictators do; they nationalize anything they do not like and absorb the business and property. They would then, of course, manage it the same way they have managed our wild horses for the past 40 years and soon it would be just another desert dust bowl.

        If you want the original email I will send it to you, just post your email address and I’ll forward it to you.

        So, at the very least (and lacking any forensics evidence that won’t be pulled by the Elko County sheriff for self-evident reasons), the welfare ranching rednecks had a clear motive to prepetrate the attack, not just to send a message to wild horse advocates, but also because the value of those rights. In other words, grass is theirs and theirs only.

        It doesn’t matter they are pro-private property when they are in essence corporate socialists.(in truth this is an incorrect use of the word socialism but that would be a totally different debate and you understand what I mean). They will destroy any private private property or animal life (maybe human as well) that stands in their way to hold an absolute control of federal lands that belongs to all Americans and, of course, make a dollar. Pretty much like the range wars of the late 19th century.

        While this is, of course, an informed guess, frankly we shouldn’t be surprised that all fingers point at them. Nobody else have anything to gain, either economically or politically, from these killings and nobody else has ever expressed so much contempt for these animals. This wasn’t a random act of violence perpetrated by a mentally-ill person.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Daniel, the ultimatum by the BLM seems to me like a radical form of government encroachment on Ms. Pickens private property rights. Isn’t it illegal or am I mistaken? And how come this didn’t make the headlines? Or did it and I was unaware of this at the time?

        By the way, it’s the same Starry but my avatar looks different since I’m using my new email.


      • Rather than encroaching more like hijacking, if not downright good ole piracy.

        I don’t know whether this is legal or not since we don’t know the specifics of the land purchase deal (whether Madeleine bought the whole place with grass and water rights included or if the property ownership is to obtain access to a federal grazing allotment just like cattlemen do, but judging for the huge sum she spent I’d say it all belongs to her). In that case they might be trying to rip off and cheat her… you know… typical good ol’boy ways. I’m surprised they didn’t ask for yet a ransom for the missing horses, like if they were Somali pirates.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, all, for some facts at least. In my humble opinion, investigators should follow the water. Whoever got the water made available by shutting off all those pumps would be first on my list of suspects. Water is still thicker than blood in the West.


      • BLM sanctuaries is a very inappropriate term-BLM sets the terms and protocols and can sell semi loads of those older hoses off of those holding facilities-and yes sally in DC admitted to me during my negotiations for the adobe town horses that they do in fact sell to rodeo contractors..I suggest that everyone real Alan Days book, ” The horse lover- a cowboys quest to save the wild mustangs”-about how he was involved in the first sanctuary- both he and Dayton Hyde-you will see and hear what the original intent was-how the horses were handled and managed and how the BLM ruthlessly changed it , BLM insists on total control..they ordered him to execute many of those was horrific and yes he is the brother to sandra day o’connor the supreme court justice-whose book, lazy B is also interesting but not about the wild horses..she knows first hand how her brother and the BLM screwed the wild horses…read it ..oh yeah those first sanctuaries were allowed to breed….


      • Very interesting, I will have to read Alan’s book. The BLM, as all the Fish & Wildlife agencies are corrupt and rouge to the core. their agenda is to kill all the wildlife for ranchers and corporate America, we have to expose and get these agencies re-organized to protect the animals, not torture and murder them.


  6. It’s frightening that people can do without fear of impunity. I wonder what they’re like at home when things aren’t perfect. On second thought I think I’d rathered not know.

    And yes, this is a hate crime. Innocent horses died because someone or someone’s got a bug up their butts and shut water off to the horses. It’s truly beyond disgusting.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is a true hate crime and should be investigated by FBI and DOJ staff brought ex professo for this from DC or Eastern US, to prevent them from having any conflict of interest with the local bundite good’ol guys:

    If this is left in the hands of local law enforcement the case will go ***directly*** to the trash can, since local enforcement, local BLM and local judges are part of the problem. Think of the Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman killings:

    Since local law enforcement was covering up the KKK murderers and the state courts were basically a farce, FBI brought in “external personnel” directly from NYC (namely a Italian mafia hitman from the Colombo family called Greg “Grim Reaper” Scarpa) to find out where the corpses were and bring the killers to justice in federal court, using “uncoventional” -but otherwise pretty effective- methods:

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I wish I lived in a world that was populated by people who would never do this type of thing. Pollyannish I know. This is both heartbreaking and extremely angering. I hope someone is in need of money and has the same sort of scruples these killers have. I’m sure these killers are hitting up all the blogs and reposts and getting quite a good gaffaw over the misery their hate has brought.


  9. Horrible deeds by a band of sickos who deserve to be prosecuted, because besides trespassing and committing vandalism, they stole the living breathing lives of wonderful equine that did not deserve to die in such a ghastly manner; show their mug faces when caught so they can receive the due wrath from the public!


  10. It was private land, fenced and supplied with water, these horses
    were bought with private money. She didn’t fence in BLM land. This was a deliberate act of vandalism and animal abuse. What the hell is wrong with these people. I hope they are caught and every animal rights group attendees their trial. But with a corrupt system in her area nothing will be done. Good old boys know how to work the system, and grease the palms, they know who did it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder what would happen differently if someone had cut off so many water holes on some private cattle ranch, and cut their fences and let stock out who then disappeared, perhaps into slaughter. This is an equal crime under our laws, private property, criminal trespass, animal cruelty, damage to a business. I’m sure there’s more, my point is that we should see equivalent outrage from any private landowner who owns horses, cattle, sheep, or other livestock. Are the Nevada Attorney General (or other lawmakers) weighing in? If not, why not?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes but, since horses do not produce anything (remember they call them pasture cockroaches) and Madeleine is not “one of them” it won’t be taken seriously and little will be done. This is the perfect definition of corporatism, which is the political order these guys live in and what they try to advance.

        In other words, it is not that they don’t respect private property, but that they only respect THEIRS. Examples of this attitude can be found in all areas of politics and attitude.


  11. My heart sank as I read this-I looked thru the photos to see if they were my adobe town wild horses most of which were gray with dust in the wind being creamola and paprika a roan and most of the mares gray-thankfully I did not see them, however it stated there were 60 horses in that field. I have to point out that if the gates were open and fences cut and rolled back–why didn’t the horses go looking for water?
    This is most certainly the work of ranchers and or those morons who call them selves cowboys in Nevada and I am well acquainted with their ilk, who believe the land is theirs no matter who holds title to it and that any encroachment by wild horses anywhere is threat to their way of life..and while not all ranchers would pull this-many would and have in the past..there is a long trail of cases of ranchers poisoning water and cutting the wild horses off from water including in the wild in nevada by BLM themselves as many of us remember..lets hope 100,000 will get some sagebrush weasel to rat on them

    Liked by 1 person


    State investigating vandalism, dead horses owned by Pickens

    ELKO – The Nevada Department of Agriculture is taking the lead on an investigation into vandalism that apparently resulted in the death of several horses owned by Madeleine Pickens.


    • NEVADA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE is going to “lead in the investigation”?
      Vice Chair
      Elko County
      Representing Semi-Range Cattle Production

      Meeting Minutes/ Nevada Board of Agriculture

      Click to access nboa_minutes111206.pdf

      Nevada Board of Agriculture
      BOYD SPRATLING: Financial strategy on getting slaughter house
      going because that is when the river is going to meet the road
      is when they slaughter the first horse. Think looking at
      putting facilities on Indian reservations which takes
      legislature and everybody out of the equation.


      • Brilliant! Thanks for the info Louie. As I said before, if this is left in the hands of industry-captured state agencies and local or state law enforcement then this case will go directly to the trash can.

        BTW, Spratling proved again what an idiot he is and how little knowledge of the industry he is so dead-set to protect. Even if the slaughterhouses were to be set in Indian reservations, they would still have to comply with the FMIA and export requirements of the target countries (i.e. Belguim) were all the meat would be sent for distribution. To put it clearly, as far as international laws is concerned an Indian nation is not a sovereign nation (no, it is not) and less so a “competent authority” when it comes to EU legislation and import approval. The CA will always be the US Federal Government.


  13. This is horrific, my question is why wasn’t the water sources check daily? These houses didn’t die over night, it takes a long time for them to die.
    We have had hunters tamper with our water, putting as rabbit down our well, but we check waters!
    I feel some blame needs to be aimed else where.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We live off the grid in the rugged and often harsh Northern Nevadan desert, surrounded on 2 sides by public land and the other 2 sides is vacant privately-owned land. Our nearest neighbors at ranches are several miles away.

      We have someone on the property 24/7 to monitor over 60 head of horses, a mule, and 3 burros, many of them formerly wild.

      This is for the simple reason that we must make sure the horses, mule, and burros have water at all times, and due to the fact that well pumps can burn-out/break, floats can malfunction, people up to no good can sabotage things, cut fences, poison animals, etc, we feel we must monitor our horses daily, even as they roam on large acreage.

      I understand this sector of the Mustang Monument property is located an hour away from their main ranch house.
      However, perhaps an investment should be made of a small aircraft that can do fly-overs on a daily basis, or every other day at least, to check on the horses, and be prepared to land if something doesn’t look right.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. The fact that anyone would do this to helpless animals is disgusting and sick. They were there before anyone else. Get over it Elko County and BLM. The American tax payers are sick of how you are treating these beautiful creatures. God’s creatures, don’t forget that- he hates ugly.


  15. I have 55 acres wooded land for shelter and land for grazing, natural springs for water holes and would love to help save our american mustangs from horrible men (ranchers)

    Liked by 1 person

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