More than 40 wild burros have been found dead along a freeway corridor in Southern California in just three months — and now officials are offering a reward of more than $18,000 for “information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for the shootings,” the San Bernardino Sun reported.
The wild burros are from the Clark Mountain Herd Area managed by the Bureau of Land Management’s Needles field office, according to a news release from the Bureau of Land Management.
The carcasses, which all had gunshot wounds, were found along a stretch of Interstate 15 between Halloran Springs, California, and Primm, Nevada, which is near the state line, according to the release.
Bureau of Land Management officials told the Los Angeles Times that some of the burros, “including several juveniles, were shot in the neck with a rifle,” while others were “brought down while drinking water in the Halloran Springs area.”
Wild burros, along with wild horses, are federally protected from capture, branding, harassment or death under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.
The Bureau of Land Management is leading the investigation into the deaths, assisted by agencies including the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to the BLM release.
“Wild horses and burros are an iconic part of the American West, and part of our national heritage,” William Perry Pendley, the BLM’s deputy director for policy and programs, said in the agency’s release. “We will pursue every lead until we’ve arrested and prosecuted those responsible for these cruel, savage deaths.”
The BLM is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information. Private organizations are offering additional rewards: the American Wild Horse Campaign is offering $2,500, Return to Freedom is offering $5,000 and The Cloud Foundation is offering $1,000.
The Humane Society has increased the total reward to $50,000, KSNV reported.
“We hope that an increase in the reward will lead to arrest and conviction for these cruel acts,” Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, said in the BLM release. “The persons who shot these innocent and beloved burros deserves to be brought to justice.”