State livestock officials are among several agencies investigating after up to two dozen horses were shot dead and dumped in a hay field about a mile west of Lodge Grass on the Crow Indian Reservation.

Residents looking for their missing horses recently found the dead animals, The Billings Gazette (http://bit.ly/1CzYya8 ) reports.

"That was (my) son's best friend that got killed," BethYana Pease-Takes Horse said Friday. "He's the one who found him. He's had that horse since he was 5."

J'Ree Old Bull's horse, named Tank, was discovered on Feb. 7 piled with two other horses, one of which had decomposed down to bare ribs.

Alana Kruger spotted her black filly and a young paint she had raised and sold to John Pretty On Top, a county commissioner.

Law enforcement officers from several agencies along with officials from the state Livestock Department investigated the deaths on Feb. 11. Some of the horses' heads were cut off.

There were several tire tracks along an irrigation ditch where four more animals were found. Pease-Takes Horse said officers collected the horse heads as evidence.

If wasn't clear Friday if anyone would be charged with killing the animals. Big Horn County Attorney Jay Harris said Friday that he hadn't seen a report of killings and Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement did not return phone calls from the newspaper on Friday. The BIA office in Billings was closed Monday because of the federal holiday.

Horses are allowed to roam freely on the Crow Reservation because it is open range. That means livestock owners aren't required to fence their animals in, but anyone who does not want stray livestock on his property must fence them out.

It is illegal to kill roaming livestock in open range country, said Christian McKay, executive officer of the state Livestock Department.


Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com