The RCMP and a Crime Stoppers film crew drove into the Alberta wilderness Tuesday to re-enact the unsolved killing of three wild horses this spring.
In April, a pregnant mare, a stallion and a yearling colt were found shot to death near Sundre, northwest of Calgary. The deaths brought the total number of wild horses killed in Alberta to more than 22 over the last four years — most of them in the Sundre area.
Despite a $25,000 reward, the RCMP have not been able to find the killers. Officials hope the Crime Stoppers re-enactment will bring forth more tips in the case.
RCMP Sgt. Patrick Webb said he could only speculate that whoever is shooting the horses with a high-powered rifle don't want them in the area.
Doreen Henderson has photographed hundreds of the feral horses over the past decade.
'Likely the culprits are biding their time, doing it when there's nobody else around and ... getting away with it.' — RCMP Sgt. Patrick Webb
"Sometimes you wonder when you photograph a horse: Is this one going to be the next one that's going to be shot?" she said.
"Sometimes I wish that they would stay away from the roads and go further up into the mountains where it would be harder anyone to get at them," said Henderson, who helped create the Wild Horses of Alberta Society.
The RCMP believe most, if not all, of the shootings are connected.
"Unfortunately, these crimes are happening widely spaced apart as far as a time frame and also they're widely spaced as far as geographic," Webb said.
"Likely the culprits are biding their time, doing it when there's nobody else around and unfortunately, up to this point in time, getting away with it."
Conspiracy of silence
The society's reward for information leading to the conviction of the killers has more than doubled to $25,000 from $10,000 in 2007.
"It's disappointing in a lot of ways," said president Bob Henderson. "We thought at that time with our reward fund that somebody would come through, and then again this year with more money in our reward fund that surely somebody would talk.
"It's almost like there's a conspiracy of silence almost, like there's no rumblings whatsoever."
The Alberta government estimates there are about 300 feral horses in the Sundre area. Provincial biologists don't consider them true wildlife because they originated from domestic horses used in logging and mining operations in the early 1900s.
Horses were often turned loose or escaped, leading to several generations of offspring that still live in the area. Other feral horses in recent decades may have been illegally abandoned by owners.
Anyone convicted of killing cattle, which is the category feral horses fall under, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison under Canada's Criminal Code.