KBR Wild Horse and Burro News
March 13th, 2001
State inspectors cracked a wild horse rustler ring suspected of operating for several years with the Monday discovery of a trapping corral hidden on a remote mountain side just south of Pyramid Lake.
Brand inspectors found a stallion and four mares trapped in the pen without food and water. The horses appeared in good health and were released after being inspected for ownership.
"This is a first for me," said Darryl Peterson, a brand inspector with the Nevada Department of Agriculture. "Nobody I know of from across the state has ever run across anything like this."
"They went to quite a lot of work up here. This is a well-concealed trap."
The Bureau of Land Management received an anonymous tip Friday that rustlers were driving wild horses from the land owned by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe onto state land, Peterson said. Inspectors searched the area and found a camouflaged bus and several cars tucked into a narrow valley below the pen.
Monday, they discovered the corral and asked the Washoe County sheriff’s Special Weapons and Tactics team to help search the area.
The rustlers had constructed a funnel with orange rope and black trash bags that forced the animals into the pen nestled in a juniper stand on the side of a hill overlooking a large valley. From tire tracks found on the scene, inspectors surmise the rustlers used motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles to herd the horses into the trap.
Inspectors can only guess how many horses they stole, for how long they operated and to whom they sold the animals. Peterson estimated the horses found in the pen would fetch a total of about $1,000 if sold to a slaughterhouse or rodeo.
Investigators are following a number of leads but have made no arrests.
"My guess is its somebody who likes money and wants to play cowboy," Peterson said. "This is not a new trap. It’s maybe two or three years old."
He said research will start today about which laws the rustlers broke during their operation.
Inspectors cannot explain how the animals were trucked off the remote hillside accessible only in a four-wheel drive vehicle on a rough dirt road. Rather than risk trying to drive a trailer to the pen, inspectors released the animals at the site.
Many of the horses could have been injured as rustlers herded them into the pen and then trucked them out of the area, Peterson said.
"It’s real easy to get them running and they run pretty much blind," he said. "And this is rough country. They could try to jump over one of those ropes and jump right over a cliff."
© 2001 Reno Gazette-Journal
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