Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Article on horse murders

Real Name: Unknown
Aliases: None Known
Wanted For: Animal Cruelty
Missing Since: August 1988


Details: Wild horses are considered a symbol of the freedom of the American West. The horses have lived there peacefully for decades. 28,000 of them can be found in central Nevada. In 1971, a law was passed, protecting the animals and declaring them a "national treasure". Many of them re-settled in central Nevada near existing ranch-land. This has been a controversial issue to some cattlemen, as they claim the horses are grazing on their lands, competing with their cattle for the already scarce food supply. The controversy worsened in 1988 when hundreds of the horses were found dead. The cause of the deaths remains a mystery.
In August 1988, a helicopter pilot completing a geological survey of Nevada's Bald Mountain area made a grim discovery. He noticed several horses lying dead in a field. Within weeks, officials from the Bureau of Land Management, the government agency responsible for taking care of the horses, discovered 475 other dead horses, all in the same area. Members of an organization dedicated to preserving the wild horses have been investigating the deaths.
In one search, they found almost fifty dead horses in one canyon. When they expanded their search, they found over 500 carcasses. Although some are believed to have died of natural causes, others were determined to have been shot to death. Bullets were found in some of the horses. The guns used were mostly hunting rifles.
Some authorities speculate that angry cattlemen may have ordered the horse killings in retaliation for the horses depleting the area's limited food supply. Local cattlemen dispute the allegations that ranchers were involved. Some even suggest that the horses weren't murdered at all, despite the bullet wounds being found.
A $12,000 reward has been posted for anyone that may have information about the shooters. However, many witnesses are believed to have been threatened into silence. Others are believed to be protecting their friends from being arrested.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the January 25, 1989 episode of Unsolved Mysteries. It was excluded from Amazon Prime episodes.

One of the suspected killers

Results: Unresolved. On the day of the broadcast, five male ranch workers were arrested in this case, suspected in the shootings of forty-two wild horses and burros. Anonymous tips to "Secret Witness" led to their arrests. They pleaded not guilty to the charges at the time. An agent for the Bureau of Land Management believed that several others may have been involved. Unfortunately, the charges against the men were later dismissed. Federal prosecutors felt that they were unable to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In 1998, thirty-four horses were shot and killed near Reno, Nevada. Three men were later arrested in those shootings; however, their ages suggest that they were not involved in the Bald Mountain case.