Wyoming guide under fire for leaving pack horse behind
B.J. Hill had to make a decision – and he had to make it fast. Bad weather was closing in and one of his horses – a six-year- old mare named Valentine – lay down 16 miles up a mountain. She wouldn’t budge, despite attempts by Hill, who runs Swift Creek Outfitters in Wyoming and owns the horse along with 125 others. He decided to leave her in order to get the other animals off the mountain before the storm hit. It wasn’t the perfect decision, but Hill couldn’t put her down, despite the fact that she was a domestic animal left behind in grizzly country in the middle of a snowstorm.
“She was down, but she's too nice of a mare to go shoot for God’s sake,” Hill told The Associated Press. “She did what we figured.”
Fortunately, the story has a somewhat happy ending. Even though Hill says his son tried to find her the next day, Valentine had disappeared. Hill speculates that she could have left the spot where she lay in search of water or because she felt threatened by predators. Either way, six weeks later, she was found in good condition by a worker grooming snow trails in the Bridger-Teton National Forest; Hill, his son and a Forest Service employee spent nine hours leading the mare out of the wild by a snow mobile, according to The Associated Press.
The fact that the horse survived and didn’t even need veterinary care is nothing short of a miracle, considering how long she was out in the wild in severe winter conditions. Yet, local residents wonder if Hill could have done more. Should he have left the horse or done something to ease its suffering?
Regardless of public sentiment, Hill may face charges for leaving his horse behind. According to The Associated Press, the incident is currently under review by the Wyoming Board of Livestock, which, upon the result of its investigation, may bring criminal charges against Hill. At least Hill goes into this investigation without any previous history of criminal wrongdoing. According to senior criminal investigator Ken Richardson, investigators couldn’t find any history of this type of behavior – or any unlawful activities – by Swift Creek Outfitters. Additionally, Todd Stiles, a Bridger-Teton Forest district ranger, says that “the company’s annual permit review has consistently attained the highest rankings, which include treatment of horses.”
Stay tuned to goHUNT for further updates.