2 dozen wild horses starving in Oregon county

SPRAY, Ore. — Landowners around Spray in Eastern Oregon’s Wheeler County say about two dozen ownerless horses are starving to death this winter.

Ranchers have turned out horses for decades, beginning with the transition to motorized tractors in the 1920s, said Chris Perry, chairman of the county commissioners.

The feral herds have multiplied and roamed the county’s rimrock country, where roundups are difficult.

They’re in a crisis this winter because a summer drought killed grass, and the harsh winter has driven them into canyon bottoms near homes, Perry told The Oregonian.

“They just stand around and stare; there is nothing to eat,” said Sandy Taggart, of Fossil. She operates the Animal Rescue Foundation, which takes in dogs but has no place for the unwanted horses.

One homeowner, Janet Wilson, said she counted 22 horses starving to death near her home along Alder Creek west of Spray and estimated that there may be 40 to 50 roaming in small herds.

She said she’s been putting out hay, but can’t afford to feed them all.

The plight of the horses promises to stretch budgets in Wheeler County, home of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. It is Oregon’s least populous county, with a 2010 Census of fewer than 1,500 people, and one of its poorest.

Sheriff Chris Humphreys said rounding up and caring for so many animals would be a challenge for his two-person department.

The problem along Alder Creek came to light when the herd’s stallions began tearing through landowners’ fences, sometimes injuring domestic mares when they tried to breed with them and even chasing after a hiker in the area, Perry said.

The county probably will try to find people who want to adopt the horses, he said. “I think everybody agrees they need to be humanely dealt with.”

More in Local News

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

High-speed, tire-shredding Marysville chase ends in capture

The 28-year-old driver is now being held for investigation of more than 25 criminal counts.

Election results for Snohomish County school districts

Updated 2/16: Here are the returns for Tuesday’s special election ballot measures.

School levies still passing in 3 districts after latest tally

In the initial count, ballot measures in Lake Stevens, Marysville and Snohomish had been losing.

7-hour police standoff near Lynnwood ends with surrender

Deputies seized a rifle, pellet gun and knife at the scene.

Scattered power outages around region after gusty Saturday

Up to 2 inches of snow could fall in some lowland areas of Snohomish County, forecasters said.

Front Porch

EVENTS Learn about the microgrid Snohomish County PUD plans an open house… Continue reading

Ban on bump-fire stocks makes progress in State House

The Senate approved the bill but would need to vote on any changes made by the House.

We might see snow in the lowlands this weekend

Snow in the mountain passes will definitely be deep, forecasters say.

Most Read