For years, you could visit a rehabilitated strip mine in the woods in eastern Kentucky and be greeted by horses, some of which would walk right up to you. That might not be the case anymore. Authorities say at least 15 of the free-roaming horses were shot and killed with a low-caliber rifle near the border of Floyd and Pike Counties by "somebody who just apparently had nothing else to do." "It looked like a battlefield," Floyd County Sheriff John Hunt tells WYMT, noting one horse was killed while feeding and died with "grass in its mouth." Megan Goble, whose family owns part of the land, says a yearling and two pregnant horses were killed. Five slain horses were found together in a 50-yard space, per NPR. But others were scattered, suggesting they'd been hunted, according to Dumas Rescue, which previously cared for the horses.
The crime is believed to have wiped out half of the 30 or so horses that roamed the area in two main herds. "I've done [animal] rescue for a long time. I've seen some pretty bad things." But "this was a very large act of evil," Goble says, per NPR. "There's no other way that I can describe it." A reward for information leading to an arrest is now at least $5,000, per WYMT. Hunt, Dumas Rescue, and a local pet store contributed $1,500, but Dumas says it also received a flood of donations from people devastated by the crime. "We are all reeling from the effects this horrendous scene has had on our group and the investigating officers," reads a post on the group's Facebook page. "Please keep us in your prayers." (Read more horses stories.)