McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Several animal rights groups are offering monetary rewards totaling $25,000 for information into the recent shooting of 15 wild horses at the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest near Alpine, Arizona.

The groups Animal Wellness Action, and Center for a Humane Economy this week announced up to $5,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for shooting 15 wild horses and injuring four other horses earlier this month.

This follows a Sunday announcement of up to $20,000 from the American Wild Horse Campaign and the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group for information leading to an arrest and conviction related to the slaughter and maiming of these animals near the New Mexico state line.

“The senseless act of shooting these magnificent wild horses was a cowardly, premeditated act of depravity and evil, and resulted in at least 15 dead horses, four more with gruesome, potentially mortal injuries, and orphaned foals,” said Scott Beckstead, equine welfare specialist and director of campaigns for the Los-Angeles based Animal Wellness Action, and the nonprofit organization Center for A Humane Economy.

“We share the public’s outrage over the killing of these wild horses, and we applaud the Alpine Wild Horse Advocates, who have undertaken the heartbreaking task of documenting the killings and monitoring the situation. We hope our reward offer will assist in identifying those responsible and bringing them to justice,” Beckstead said in a statement.

The injured and dead animals were found around Oct. 3, some shot between the eyes, in the face and abdomen.

Twenty other horses from the herd are reported missing and presumed dead, organizers said.

“The gunmen who are targeting these horses have inflicted enormous suffering on these innocent animals and caused immense trauma to the people who love them,” said Simone Netherlands, president of the Arizona-based nonprofit Salt River Wild Horse Management Group.

“We are offering this reward on behalf of horse lovers from around the world who are demanding the capture, arrest, and prosecution of the cold-blooded killers who are responsible for this crime,” Netherlands said in a statement.

Netherlands’ group also has called for state and federal legislation to protect the Alpine wild horse herd, citing the Arizona state historian Marshall Trimble who has stated  “There is sufficient historic evidence to confidently state these Alpine wild horses have been in the Apache Forest since the time of the first explorers,” she said.

Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign claims the U.S. Forest Service has been rounding up these horses and removing them from the Apache National Forest.

On its website, the U.S. Forest Service says the removal of feral horses are “necessary” to maintain the integrity of the forest lands.

“The Forest Service continues to plan for the necessary removal of a number of unauthorized livestock, commonly referred to as feral horses, on the Apache National Forest. This decision is a necessary step to ensure that the Apache National Forest is healthy and sustainable for years to come. These feral horses cause substantial problems for not only native plants and animals, which are being outcompeted for resources, but they also destroy watersheds and negatively impact ecosystems. They also pose an imminent threat to several federally listed and threatened species. These animals will be gathered using passive trapping techniques. Active gathering, which uses helicopters and physically moving animals, will not be used at this time,” the federal agency said.

According to the agency, these horses are not federally protected and are “causing resource damage on the Apache side of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.”

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com