Officials with the Fort Peck Tribes are investigating the deaths of 15 horses that were found north of Wolf Point in a pasture on the reservation.
The horses appeared to have been dead about five days when a local resident reported the incident to tribal wildlife officials Friday afternoon, Fort Peck Department of Fish and Game Director Robert Magnan said Tuesday.
"It looks like they died of dehydration," Magnan said. "There were five colts and five mares right where the dam is, where they can get water, but it's all dried up."
Five more animals were later located "scattered around the pasture," he said.
Many of the carcasses appeared to have been picked over by scavengers in several photos shared on Facebook by Fort Peck Tribal Councilman Jestin Dupree. Other photos showed closeups of livestock brands visible on several of the animals' hides, and Magnan said the tribe and the Roosevelt County Sheriff's Office are working with the Montana Department of Livestock to attempt to identify the horses' owners.
"I was asked if I wanted to come see for myself on what happened to these animals so I drove up to see what is in these pictures and it pretty much ruined my day," Dupree wrote Friday in the Facebook post. "This is embarrassing and no animal should be treated like this."
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The horses were found in an area alongside Montana Highway 13, north of Wolf Point, according to Dupree's post.
Dupree said in the post that a person was seen unloading horses in the area earlier this summer, but declined to elaborate when reached by phone Tuesday.
"Once something happens I'll share some information regarding it," he said. "Until then, there's no need for me trying to speculate about it."
Multiple suspects have been identified in the investigation, according to Magnan. If animal cruelty charges are filed, he said, the suspect's status as a tribal member or non-member would determine whether charges are pursued by the county or the tribes.
About five different brands were identified on the carcasses when officials arrived at the pasture, Dupree said. It's unclear whether the horses may have been stolen.
Roosevelt County Sheriff Jason Fredric did not return a call for comment Tuesday.