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ELKO – The Nevada Department of Agriculture is taking the lead on an investigation into vandalism that apparently resulted in the death of several horses owned by Madeleine Pickens.

KLAS-TV in Las Vegas reported Wednesday that more than a dozen horses died over the past week, and Pickens was offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible.

Undersheriff Ron Supp confirmed that a deputy investigated the report of cut fences, opened gates and water being closed off in Goshute Valley. He said the state ag department was continuing the investigation.

Pickens purchased the Warm Creek and Spruce ranches south of Wells in 2010 to create Mustang Monument. She acquired hundreds of horses that were destined for slaughter, but faced opposition from Elko County Commissioners regarding the conversion of grazing rights.

Some horse advocacy groups also oppose the creation of eco-sanctuaries, saying the animals are best left to roam in the wild.

Mustang Monument issued a press release in February stating it was prevented from opening for the 2016 season because of delays in receiving a permit from the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM this spring asked ranchers to reduce cattle grazing in response to an overpopulation of wild horses in the region.

Pickens called the recent vandalism an act of terrorism, according to the television report, which said dozens more horses are missing.

State agriculture investigators were not immediately available for comment.

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