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AZ Group Wants Wild Horse Killings to Stop


Monday, October 31, 2022   

Three dozen wild horses have been shot and killed in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and an Arizona group is advocating for protection for wild horses in the area near Alpine.

Another 15 to 20 horses are missing.

Simone Netherlands, president and founder of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, is convinced the total number of horse killings will increase as the group continues to search the vast 500,000-acre forest.

She said she believes the negativity about wild horses has been catalyzed by agencies and organizations that see these animals as a threat to the ecosystem.

"The problem is they have zero protection," said Netherlands. "They are not protected by federal law and they're not protected by state law. They're not protected by anything. It is almost easy to go out there and shoot them."

According to a U.S. Forest Service website, the wild horses are considered "unauthorized livestock" that competes for food with other animals and plants.

Netherlands said she recognizes that grazing animals have an impact on the environment, but said the close to 400 wild horses in Arizona are the minority among thousands of "authorized" cows, elk and deer - which she contends have a much greater impact on the ecosystem.

While it's still unclear who's killing these horses and why, a $35,000 reward is available to anyone who provides information that leads to a conviction.

The wild horses are periodically rounded up by the Forest Service and taken to auction.

Netherlands said the agency doesn't use other forms of herd management, and she encouraged members of the public to ask for a change.

"The worst waste of compassion is a tear and a sigh," said Netherlands. "And the best use of compassion is to turn it into action. We can turn around this terrible injustice that is being done to wild horses."

Her group has successfully led efforts to save other wild horse populations - like the Salt River wild horses, now protected by an Arizona state law.

The group manages that herd size with darts that contain birth control for the mares.

Netherlands said now, instead of having 100 foals on the Salt River, there is currently only one.

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