The horses killed were Admiral, a young stallion, and Kapitan/Climbs High, his yearling son, said Matt Dillon, Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center Board member.
Admiral and his harem were popular where the public had relatively easy access to view the horses near the highway, Dillon said.
People referred to Admiral’s Lower Dry Head band as “the Greeters,” said Lori Graham, Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center director.
These were the first vehicle-related mustang fatalities anyone knows of in the area, Graham said.
The incident occurred on U.S. 37 near Crooked Creek Bay in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. Finn allegedly struck the horses, then drove another 1.5 miles, but damage to his late-model pickup truck prevented further travel, said Deputy Chief Ranger Dale Kissner.
It was determined Finn would have left if his pickup would have allowed it, Kissner said.
Kissner said the truck likely was totaled. Finn was brought back to the scene of the accident by a fellow student from his archeological field school in the park, where he was met by park rangers and deputies from the Big Horn County Sheriff’s office, Kissner said.
Finn was arrested for suspicion of driving while under the influence, issued citations for driving a vehicle with a breath concentration of .08 or greater, unsafe operation — failure to maintain control of a vehicle, destruction of natural resources and moving a vehicle from an accident scene, said a National Park Service release Monday.
Finn will appear before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Lander, but Kissner said he did not know when.
Kissner would not speculate on whether Finn would serve time in jail. That is up to the U.S. assistant attorney and judge, he said.
Dillon blames the equines’ death on drunk driving.
“This could have been avoided,” he said.
“People have to drive slowly,” said Christine Reed, of Omaha, Neb., who has photographed Pryor mustangs for the past three years.
“He (Admiral) was my favorite of all the stallions,” Reed said.
Graham saw the dead horses Sunday morning. “It just ruined my whole day,” she said.
The service said drivers should use caution and watch for horses, bighorn sheep and other wildlife.
The speed limit is 45 mph on U.S. 37 through most of the park, Kissner said.
“It’s just so tragic,” Reed said. “People drive that area way too fast.”
Graham said the center and the Park Service are working to post signs advising motorists where the mustangs are likely to be.
“Just hope this never happens again,” Graham said.