GEORGE COUNTY, Miss. (WKRG) – The Mississippi Department of Agriculture is investigating three separate cases of horses being shot and killed in George and Greene counties.

Two were found dead in Greene County in October. Officers with the Agricultural & Livestock Theft Bureau were still investigating when a third horse was reported killed on January 6 in George County.

The 10-year-old horse, Savannah, belonged to Peyton Kremer’s family. It had been at her grandparents’ current house in the Central community since July.

“I loved her,” Kremer said. “She was like a thousand-pound dog walking around. People would drive up and she’d stick her head in their window. We’ve never had one that had that kind of personality. She loved people.”

Investigators believe all of the horses were shot overnight. Kremer said a neighbor heard two gunshots in the area the night Savannah died, but didn’t think much of it.

Reports of shot livestock increase in the fall and winter during deer hunting season. Hunters sometimes use lights that will reflect off of the eyes of a deer in the dark and they shoot in that direction to kill it.

State Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson said it has been a problem since he was growing up.

“We spray painted the sides of our cattle with reflective orange spray paint because we were doing what we could do to protect those animals,” Gipson said. “So when the headlights shine on the orange, hunters realize it’s not a deer. But we shouldn’t have to do that sort of thing. We should be entitled to the private property that we enjoy and the raising of our animals and livestock in peace.”

“Headlighting” deer is illegal in Mississippi. Anyone convicted of the crime can be fined up to $500, sentenced to six months in jail and have hunting privileges revoked for at least three years.

Shooting livestock is a separate felony offense which could result in up to five years in jail and fines up to $10,000.

Particularly with inflated costs of feed, medicine and other supplies to raise livestock, Gipson says the cost of killed livestock could range in the thousands, crippling producers in one of the state’s largest industries.

“That animal is more valuable than it’s ever been,” Gipson said. “So when you think about this new and unexpected risk of somebody just shooting an animal like this, whether it was intentional, or whether it was an accident, it brings a whole other level of risk and we have to take that very seriously.”

For owners like Kremer who don’t raise their livestock for market, there is much more value in their animals than any dollar amount.

“I was so connected with her, we’d been together almost half my life,” Kremer said. “This was three weeks ago now, and I still haven’t went out there to see my grandma because I just, I’m not ready to go over there yet. It’s heartbreaking.”

The department of agriculture recommends livestock owners put reflective materials on any fencing and buildings they have, have game cameras in place, move animals away from the road at night and maintain a presence on their properties during deer season. Ultimately, it is also up to citizens to report any hunters that headlight deer to the Miss. Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility any of the shootings were intentional or caused by non-hunters. Posts on social media have indicated cattle could have also been shot recently, but no additional reports have been filed with either sheriff or the state.

Kremer hopes others will take steps to protect themselves and come forward with any information to help investigators. 

“I just hate it all together, but I hate it also knowing that it could still be going on and hurt another horse, or even a person,” Kremer said. “We all need to speak up and help each other.”

Anyone with information about any of the shootings or know of other instances of killed, injured or stolen livestock can report it to the bureau at 601-359-1121.