Prosecutors have charged two Wyoming men with animal cruelty, alleging the men did not do enough to rescue three horses after they got loose in the Shoshone National Forest last fall. One of the horses reportedly died over the winter.
On Tuesday, the Park County Attorney’s Office filed charges against Brad Flint — who’s alleged to have lost the horses in September 2016 — and his brother David Flint.
It’s unclear from charging documents who owned the horses, with Brad Flint quoted as telling authorities that the three horses belonged to him, and David Flint quoted as saying he owned two of them and that he wasn’t there when the horses ran off.
Both brothers reportedly told authorities they had looked for the horses in November.
The Flints are each charged with three misdemeanor counts alleging that, between Sept. 28, 2016 and April 14, they “did have the charge and custody of [each horse] and unnecessarily failed to provide it with the proper food, drink or protection from the weather, or cruelly abandoned the animal, or in the case of immediate, obvious, serious illness or injury, failed to provide the animal with appropriate care.”
Shoshone National Forest Law Enforcement Officer Ron Ostrom began investigating the matter on Jan. 17, after a Wyoming Game and Fish employee — who’d been conducting an aerial survey of elk — reported spotting three horses in the Greybull River drainage west of Meeteetse.
“This was the first time the Forest Service had been made aware or knew about the three lost horses,” Ostrom wrote in an affidavit filed in support of the charges. One horse was a palomino, one sorrel and another a paint — all located in an area known as Haymaker Ridge.
Ostrom was ultimately told that Brad Flint, a resident of the Bridger Valley area in southwest Wyoming, might have been the one who lost the horses.
Brad Flint reportedly told Ostrom his horses had run away from camp on Sept. 28; members of his group caught a couple of the horses, but three were lost, Flint reportedly told Ostrom.
Brad Flint said he later made several hunting trips in and out of that area — apparently in November — but was unable to find the three horses during those trips.
“Brad Flint said he talked to some hunters on the mountain about losing the horses, but did not call the Forest Service or Game and Fish,” Ostrom wrote.
At that point in mid-January, Ostrom found the road to the trail was blocked by snow.
When asked about his plans for rescuing the horses, Flint reportedly said “he couldn’t get off work until his scheduled vacation time and that was at the end of March, when he had planned to come up and go horn hunting and get the horses,” Ostrom wrote.
When Ostrom informed him that leaving stock on the National Forest was illegal, “Brad Flint again said he could not get up that way until late March or April,” the affidavit says.
On Jan. 30, after finishing a Park County Search and Rescue mission, an airplane pilot was dispatched to the Haymaker Ridge area to look for the horses. The animals were not spotted at that time and Ostrom said officials assumed the horses had made it out of there.
However, on March 14, the Game and Fish flew over the area again as part of another elk survey. A department staffer spotted the paint and sorrel in the area — this time seeing them standing next to what appeared to be the bloated carcass of the palomino.
“I called Brad Flint to inform him of the current situation and asked ... when he was going to be able to get his horses,” Ostrom wrote. “Brad Flint said he was coming up in a couple weeks.”
Roughly a month later, on April 13, a local outfitter brought the paint out of the wilderness. He told Ostrom he’d also spotted some horse bones and the sorrel, which was too weak to make it out.
The next day, Ostrom rode up the Greybull River Trail and found the sorrel horse laying on the ground.
“The horse was skin and bones,” Ostrom recounted.
After giving the animal some electrolytes, the officer was able to slowly lead it back to the Jack Creek Trailhead. Powell veterinarian Tori Lewis later examined the animal and found it was “severely emaciated,” apparently suffering from long-term starvation, bleeding gastrointestinal ulcers and parasites, Ostrom wrote. Lewis also examined the paint that the outfitter retrieved and diagnosed it with long-term starvation and noted a heavy parasite load and signs of colic, the affidavit says.
The Flints are tentatively set to make their first appearances in Park County Circuit Court on Aug. 15 and will enter a plea at that time.