Men working for an excursion outfitter in Wyoming were forced to leave behind a 6-year-old horse last fall after a 16-mile trek when she suddenly seemed deathly ill and couldn't move. They left Valentine to get the other animals to safety, and when they went back for her the next day, she'd vanished into the Wyoming wilderness. Six weeks later, a worker spotted her, and her owners worked for nine hours to guide her out, the AP reports. The domesticated Valentine had to find food and survive harsh winter conditions in grizzly bear country, yet the mare didn't even need vet care when found. Her story has unleashed debate among Jackson Hole residents on whether the outfitters did the right thing leaving her, and has led to a Wyoming Livestock Board inquiry.
It's unclear why Valentine got sick initially, but she survived on grass until it snowed, then pawed at the powder to get at food underneath. "I just despair at the thought of that animal being left out," says one resident, who notes it may have been better to put her down if she'd seemed disabled. BJ Hill, who owns Swift Creek Outfitters, said the wranglers didn't have firearms, but even if they did, he didn't see the sense of shooting a young horse. He also said attempts to find her after she took off were in vain. A worker grooming snow trails spotted Valentine in mid-December. Hill said he, his son, and a Forest Service employee led Valentine out of the wild via snowmobile. An investigator said the review will take about two weeks and be handed to prosecutors for a decision on charges. (Read more horse stories.)