“Terrorists Kill 10 Horses at Pickens Sanctuary” read the Aug. 26 headline introducing readers of News of the Horse to the grisly killing of 10 wild horses who lived at the The Mustang Monument, based near Elko Nevada. A refuge for wild Mustangs, the 900-square mile sanctuary is also an eco-resort established in 2010 by Madeleine Pickens, a wealthy philanthropist and animal welfare activist, who is probably better known as the fourth wife (2005-2012) of Texas billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens.
The Mustang Monument grew out of Madeleine Pickens’ fierce criticism of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and its practice of rounding up the wild horses on its lands and euthanizing them. Since its establishment, Pickens and resort staff have been raising the profile of the resort and monument through their presence at travel industry trade shows and PR efforts—positioning the property and sanctuary as a tranquil place for more than 600 Mustangs to live out their lives in peace, without fear of being rounded up and shipped to slaughter.
That all changed the weekend of Aug. 13-14 when Pickens discovered a dead horse—a horse named Scarlet, one of her favorites, according to news accounts—laid out on the ground near a fence post. Ranch hands quickly found that fences had been cut and all of the wells and pumps tampered with. As reported in News of the Horse, “A total of 10 horses thirsted to death, and a dozen are still missing. Seven of the horses were still alive when they were discovered, but were too far dehydrated to save. The bodies of the dead horses were found scattered around the destroyed water source, dying an agonizing death in the blistering heat.”
Pickens is offering a $100,000 reward for information about those responsible for destroying the water sources and killing the horses. The Nevada Department of Agriculture is taking the lead on the investigation of the matter. The killings took place in one of the 12,000 acre sections of the ranch. The Mustang Monument has been plagued with trespassing and vandalism since it opened.