PHOENIX - Fifteen wild horses were discovered dead in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest since the start of this year.
Investigators confirm at least 12 of the horses were shot, and now forest officials are looking for the shooter or shooters.
Eight dead horses were discovered in the northern Arizona Forest last Thursday, and seven dead horses were discovered this past Sunday. These horses are all part of the same band.
The discoveries are being investigated as two separate incidents, and the scenes are not far from each other.
Investigators say necropsies confirm 12 died from gunshot wounds, the cause of death for the remaining three horses were inconclusive.
Forest officials say patrols in the area have been increased, and as many as three forest rangers are patrolling the area daily since the discoveries. Investigators are examining evidence, and working with county law enforcement, to figure out who's been shooting the wild horses.
This isn't the first time wild horses have been targeted, a total of 19 Heber Horses were found dead from 2018-2019, but no suspects were identified in previous incidents.
Heber wild horses are federally protected. At last count, around 300 of these horses were spotted living in the area.
Forest Service Officials say anyone convicted of killing the horses may face federal charges, punishable by fines and prison time.