Tragedy on the Dryhead

Photo by Christine Reed

Tennessee man arrested for DUI after striking and killing two wild horses

Wild horse enthusiasts and the North Big Horn County community are mourning the loss of a pair of prize Pryor Mountain wild stallions – father and son – who were struck and killed by an apparent drunk driver early Sunday morning just north of Horseshoe Bend.

Admiral, an 11-year-old stallion well known in the Crooked Creek Bay area, and his yearling son Kapitan were struck and killed around 2 a.m. Sunday about 2/10s of a mile north of the Crooked Creek parking area just inside the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range along Wyoming Highway 37 within the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

According to Bighorn Canyon NRA Deputy Chief Ranger Dale Kissner, the horses were struck by a pickup – a Ford F-150 – driven by 26-year-old Adam Finn of Germantown, Tenn., who was driving north from Lovell to the Ewing-Snell Ranch, where he was staying while participating in an archaeology field school. Kissner said Tuesday that he didn’t know how fast Finn was traveling but said the speed limit was 45 mph where the collision took place.

After striking the horses, the pickup continued a mile and a half further north before stalling with major front-end damage, Kissner said. Finn stayed with the vehicle, Kissner said, and the incident was reported just before 10 a.m. by a park visitor who had come upon the scene and called the Bighorn Canyon Visitor Center.

A visitor center employee contacted the Lovell Dispatch Center, which made radio contact with Ranger David Baker and also dispatched Big Horn County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Angell to the scene. Meanwhile, a member of the field school picked up Finn and met up with Baker near the NPS contact station at the turnoff to Horseshoe Bend.

The officers administered a field sobriety test, then arrested Finn for DUI and transported him to the annex in Lovell where an intoximeter test was administered and Finn allegedly blew levels of .093 and .096, both over the legal limit, and was cited for DUI, then released to a third party from the field school.

After a followup investigation, Kissner reported Monday that Finn was cited for DUI, driving a vehicle with a breath alcohol concentration of .08 or greater, unsafe operation of a vehicle/failure to maintain control, destruction of natural resources and moving a vehicle from an accident scene.

Finn will appear before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Lander to answer the charges.

Bighorn Canyon NRA reminds drivers to be aware of horses, deer, bighorn sheep and other wildlife on and near park roads and to use caution when driving in the park.

Dillon deals with loss of slain stallions

For Matt Dillon, it was like losing two members of his family.

Dillon, who grew up observing the Pryor Mountain wild mustangs with his father and mother, Tom and Nancy Dillon (now Cerroni), and later studied them as director of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center, was shocked when he heard about the Sunday morning crash that killed two stallions along the Transpark Highway.

He received a call from anguished friends who had gone to the park one last time to look at horses before returning to Minnesota and saw them lying along the roadway. Dillon had been with the Minnesota friends just the day before atop the Pryor Mountains, enjoying the glorious views of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

“They come every summer to see the horses,” Dillon said. “They went out to visit the Dryhead again before going home. They saw Admiral – they know the horse. Their daughter knew exactly who was hit. She was really upset. We headed right out and called BLM and Park Service law enforcement.”

Matt and wife Kimberly went to the park and met up with law enforcement rangers and with Lori Graham, the current director of the wild mustang center (Matt is still on the board and actively monitors the horses). They found Admiral – a familiar, 11-year-old dark bay stallion often seen by visitors to the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area – on the right shoulder of the Transpark Highway (Wyoming 37) just north of the Crooked Creek parking area at the southern end of the horse range and his yearling son Kapitan – also a dark bay – off the west side of the highway a few yards north of Admiral.

“This is the first time it’s happened in the history of that highway – it’s a commonly asked question,” Dillon said. “They do know how to get off the highway, but obviously not when somebody is going that fast.

“Admiral was one of my favorite stallions. This has really been hard.”

Admiral was a true Wyoming wild mustang, born at Crooked Creek Bay and living his life in the area, Dillon said. He was the son of the black stallion Sam, who lived for many years in the Crooked Creek area.

A young stallion, Admiral got his harem in 2006, displacing another harem stallion, Sitting Bull, and taking two mares, his own mother, Hightail, and his “real” mare, Seneca.

“I feel for her (Hightail),” Dillon said. “She lost Sam last year and now Admiral.

“We saw the two mares Sunday around Crooked Creek Bay, about a mile away from Sitting Bull. I’m hoping they will meet up with him and come back. It will be interesting to see if they get back with him. I hate to think of Crooked Creek Bay without horses. Since the 1940s people have seen horses at Crooked Creek. That’s why I hope they get together with Sitting Bull because he used to live there.”

Dillon noted that, although he was a young stallion, Admiral does have a living offspring – the 2-year-old stallion Jesse James, a bachelor stallion he called a “striking horse with a T-shaped blaze.” A red bay, Jesse James can be seen often in Mustang Flats to the north.

“He’ll have a big burden to carry on his dad’s legacy,” Dillon said.

There are around 30 wild horses along the Transpark Highway, he said.

“It’s been a really good year for seeing horses on the Dryhead,” Dillon added.

And having watched Admiral grow up from a colt, Dillon was still dealing with the emotions of losing a friend Monday.

“It has been really hard dealing with this one,” he said. “Horses die all the time, but this isn’t natural. It was totally out of the blue. It wasn’t the horses’ fault at all, and it could have been prevented. He was a young stallion, just getting his life going.

“A lot of people from all over know Admiral. He was special to a lot of visitors from around the world. Sometimes his band is the only horses people see. He was really fun to watch. He was a fun stallion.

“A lot of people are pretty affected by this, too.”

By David Peck

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