TUBA CITY, Arizona — Nearly 200 wild horses were found dead around a dried-up watering hole on Navajo land in Arizona, with officials blaming drought and famine for their deaths.
Navajo leaders said the area near Gray Mountain — about 45 minutes north of Flagstaff — has struggled to cope with overpopulation of wild horses in recent years and there have been similar die offs at the same pond in the past.
“Gray Mountain has faced a growing feral horse problem for years. The occurrence of horses dying at this particular watering pond is not a new but a seasonal issue. There is an estimated amount of 50,000 to 70,000 feral horses on the Navajo Nation,” the nation’s president, Russell Begaye, said in a statement.
Officials said the 191 horses were found submerged in mud — some up to their necks — and would have to be buried on site. The watering hole will then be covered over and another one created a different location.
“These horses weren’t shot or maliciously killed by an individual,” Vice President Jonathan Nez said. “These animals were searching for water to stay alive. In the process, they, unfortunately burrowed themselves into the mud and couldn’t escape because they were so weak.”
In late February, the Navajo Nation canceled a hunt meant to thin a herd in one part of their territory after horse advocates protested it.