Searchers were looking Thursday for three horses reportedly spotted running free in the vicinity of Mallet Pond State Forest in Schoharie County.
The North Carolina-based Stolen Horse International on Wednesday issued a release reporting that college students spotted three brown horses, one appearing underfed, wandering around in the forest.
Julie Steinmuller of Schoharie said Thursday that her daughter was with a group of SUNY Cobleskill students earlier this week when they spotted the equines.
She said the sighting of horses seemed odd to her daughter. There wasn’t much of a description aside from the horses being brown and one being “shaggy.”
Lisa Lee, a local member of Netposse, a sister agency of Stolen Horse International, said she and three others spent 2 1/2 hours in the forest Thursday morning but didn’t find anything. She said they didn’t bring their own horses to aid in the search, so as to not make more tracks that could confuse searchers.
She said it appears as though there’s sufficient food and water in the forest, making it conceivable that horses could survive there without direct care.
Reports Lee received indicate that the students saw the horses on a unimproved road running through the forest, and it’s unlikely they could have mistaken other animals for horses.
“It’s a pretty good bet that they were horses that they saw,” she said.
Lee said there were reports after Tropical Storm Irene that a local horse owner was missing nearly a dozen horses, and the forest is situated roughly six miles from that farm.
“There’s a slight chance they could be from there,” she said.
The group of searchers passed out some flyers to a hunter and in mailboxes on roads leading to the forest, Lee said.
She said she also encountered a forest ranger during their search Thursday.
Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond said his department hadn’t heard about reports of horses on the loose by early Thursday afternoon.
The state DEC Region 4 press office said horses are considered domestic animals and referred The Daily Gazette to the state Agriculture and Markets Department. Agriculture and Markets said loose horses would be the responsibility of local law enforcement or the SPCA.
Stolen Horse International is asking hunters, hikers and others to keep an eye out for horses on the loose.
The group is asking anybody who spots the horses to take a cellphone photo if possible and call the DEC office at 607-652-7365.
A report on the sighting can be found online at www.netposse.com.