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16 horses are found dead near Calhan

DENNIS HUSPENI THE GAZETTE
October 23, 2005


CALHAN - The discovery Saturday of 16 more dead horses in eastern El Paso County
has left ranchers worried and investigators puzzled over who or what is killing
the animals.

In all, 22 horses and one burro have died under mysterious circumstances in the
past two weeks in the same area. There is still no explanation for the deaths of
the seven animals found Oct. 11.

?I?ve never, never seen an animal die like that,? said William DeWitt, the
lifelong rancher who owned the horses found Saturday. ?It certainly wasn?t
natural.?

DeWitt was speaking of a horse that looked as though it died before it hit the
ground. It was on its stomach, legs bent, and nose in the dirt. The head was
upright.

?At first, I thought he was still alive,? DeWitt said.

El Paso County Sheriff?s Deputy Andy Prehm said investigators found no signs of
trauma and could not speculate what might have killed the horses, including some
young ones. It was also too early to say whether the deaths were connected to
those of the seven animals found less than two miles away. The latest horses
were found between Calhan Highway south and Calhan Road, south of Judge Orr
Road.

All the horses found Saturday were within about 50 yards of each other, causing
investigators and John Heikkila, the veterinarian investigating the case, to
speculate about lightning, Prehm said.

?There are no signs of foul play, but these were sudden deaths,? Prehm said.

Rancher Ned Sixkiller, who was part-owner of the six horses and one burro found
Oct. 11, discovered the horses Saturday and reported them to De-Witt.

?I was on my way to pick up some salt I had left, and I couldn?t believe it,?
Sixkiller said. ?Our deal was bad enough.?

Investigators think the horses had been dead from three days to a week, Prehm
said.

?It?s a mystery to me,? De-Witt said. ?I never saw anything. . . . You wonder
why and how.?

DeWitt said he checked the horses after the Oct. 10 snowstorm, and after
Sixkiller?s horses were found dead. He could not estimate what the horses were
worth; they were not insured.

Kris Bunting, an area property and horse owner, said residents have been buzzing
about the deaths.

?It?s real scary,? she said. ?Horses in this community are an important part of
our lifestyle.?

People have been wondering whether it?s a person, or people, who hate horses or
animals, she said.

Signs are still posted in many stores offering a reward for information about
the shooting death of a horse found Sept. 18 near Ellicott.

?We?ve been waking up every morning and seeing how our horses are,? said Rick
Hahn, who lives near Calhan. ?I mean out here, our horses are like family pets.
This doesn?t make any sense.?

Heikkila said tests so far have not revealed what killed the animals found on
Oct. 11.

?Essentially, we got nothing definite from the histology (tissue tests) or blood
work,? Heikkila said Friday.

The horses discovered Oct. 11 appeared to have entry wounds similar to bullet
holes. But exams and X-rays revealed no bullet fragments or slugs. Investigators
have not speculated what caused the wounds.

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