WARNING: ARTICLE CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGE
Nearly 200 horses were found dead in a stock pond on Navajo land in Arizona after widespread drought and famine hit the area, officials said.
About 191 wild horses died of natural causes in the pond in Gray Mountain, Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez said in a news release. Nez and Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye went to the scene to assess the incident last Wednesday.
“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,” Nez said in the news release.
The horses will be buried onsite. Officials will be spreading hydrated lime to speed up decomposition before they are buried. The pond will then be permanently closed and covered and a new watering hole will be created at a different location.
This isn’t the first time dozens of horses were found dead near a watering pond. Officials said the incident was a seasonal issue as Navajo communities attempt to solve their growing wild horse population. The Navajo Nation — territory that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — has an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 feral horses on the land. Navajo Nation officials said the ecosystem cannot support the amount of horses.
“This tragic incident exemplifies the problem the Navajo Nation faces in an overpopulation of feral horses,” Begaye said.
Arizona has been experiencing an unusual dry spell after a winter with little rain and snow. About 10 percent of Arizona is seeing exceptional drought, AZCentral reported. The forecast for the next three months also doesn’t offer much hope for more rain to quell the drought.