WARNING: ARTICLE INCLUDES GRAPHIC PICTURE
Almost 200 horses were found dead in a 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 at Gray Mountain, Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez said in a press release. Nez and Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye went to the scene last Wednesday to investigate the incident.
"These animals were looking for water to stay alive, but unfortunately they dug into the mud and could not escape because they were so weak," Nez said in the press release.
The horses are buried on site. The officials will distribute lime hydrate to accelerate the decomposition before they are buried. The pond is then permanently closed and covered, and in another location a new water hole is created.
This is not the first time that dozens of horses have been found dead near a pool of water. Officials said the incident is a seasonal problem as Navajo communities try 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 wild horses in the country. Navajo Nation officials said the ecosystem could not support the number of horses.
"This tragic incident exemplifies the Navajo nation's problem of overpopulation of wild horses," said Begaye.
Arizona has experienced an unusual drought after a winter of low rain and snow. About 10 percent of Arizona sees extraordinary drought, AZCentral reported. The forecast for the next three months also does not offer much hope for more rain to quell the drought.