Organizations offer $25,000 reward for arrest in deaths of wild horses in Arizona

A herd of Alpine wild horses.

A $25,000 reward has been offered for the arrest and conviction of perpetrators involved in a wild horse killing in the Apache National Forest near Alpine, Arizona, according to Amelia Perrin from the American Wild Horse Campaign.

Two nonprofit organizations — The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group and the American Wild Horse Campaign — have pledged $20,000 toward the reward fund. Another advocacy organization, Animal Wellness Action, has pledged an additional $5,000 toward the reward, Perrin said.

Perrin said the reward is in response to the discovery of the death of a herd of wild horses in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest by volunteers from the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group. The groups announced the death toll has risen to 15 horses fatally shot, with 20 still missing and presumed dead.

Simone Netherlands, president of the group, said, “The gunmen who are targeting these horses have inflicted enormous suffering on these innocent animals and caused immense trauma to the people who love them. We are offering this reward on behalf of horse lovers from around the world who are demanding the capture, arrest, and prosecution of the cold-blooded killers who are responsible for this crime.”

In an Oct. 7 release, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests confirmed a number of horses were found dead near Forest Road 25 on the Alpine and Springerville Ranger Districts. The release did not state how many. The investigation is still ongoing.

The presence of wild horses in Arizona has been controversial. Some ranchers and conservationists advocate for smaller herds and stricter population management while wild horse supporters have historically decried efforts to remove or sterilize the animals.

A 47-page management plan from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests proposed a reduction in the Heber herd’s size from around 420 to no more than 104. The Navajo Board of Supervisors said in 2005 that personnel advertised a contract to remove livestock that were accessing the fire-damaged area from the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski Fire, due to concerns that the increased number of free-range horses was adversely affecting the land’s recovery.

The Alpine herd is not protected under the 1971 Wild Horses and Burros Act, which declares that, “Wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”

Perrin and the American Wild Horse Campaign hope that the $25,000 reward will incentivize people to come forward with information.

“Someone knows something,” Perrin said. “There’s not just a mass killing of animals at this level without someone knowing something.”

In January, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests announced a $10,000 reward for information about the death of three wild horses on the Black Mesa Ranger District in eastern Arizona. In 2020, 15 deceased horses were found between Jan. 9 and 14, several of which were confirmed to have died due to bullet wounds.

Reach breaking news reporter Vic Verbalaitis at or on Twitter @VicVerb.