An $18,500 reward is offered for information that could solve a donkey murder mystery in the Mojave Desert. Some 42 burros have been found shot to death along Interstate 15 in the Clark Mountain Herd Area near the California-Nevada border since May, though the animals are federally protected as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West," per CNN. Officials tell the Los Angeles Times that juveniles were among the animals shot in the neck with a rifle. A few appeared to have been gunned down while drinking from springs. "We will pursue every lead until we've arrested and prosecuted those responsible for these cruel, savage deaths," says a rep for the Bureau of Land Management. "We welcome the public's help to bring the perpetrator or perpetrators to justice."
Federal officials are offering a $10,000 reward, while the Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation, the American Wild Horse Campaign, and the Cloud Foundation have contributed $5,000, $2,500, and $1,000, respectively. "These cruel and hostile acts against federally protected animals strike at the heart of everyone working so hard for their protection and for humane, non-lethal solutions to management concerns," says Return to Freedom president Neda DeMayo. A rep for the American Wild Horse Campaign calls the deaths a "travesty." The Times notes that back in 1953, 50 burros were found dead, some with bullet wounds to the head, in an area 200 miles west. The animals were later granted protections in 10 western states by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. (Read more donkey stories.)