An apparently random series of late-summer shootings has left two horses dead and one lion injured on the eastern plains of El Paso County, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
In late August and early September, two Calhan residents found their horses shot to death in their pastures. One horse, whose owner lives in the 23000 block of Highway 94, about 12 miles from Calhan, was found dead on Aug. 20 with a bullet hole in its chest. The other horse, on a property near the Serenity Springs Wildlife Center in the 2400 block of Scott Road, was found on Sept. 2 with a bullet hole in its head.
Then, last week, a puncture wound was discovered on the foreleg of Zazu, a 19-year-old lion at the Serenity Springs animal sanctuary. After a veterinarian determined that the wound was most likely caused by a bullet, the sanctuary staff called the sheriff’s office. The lion had been apparently shot more than a week before, around Aug. 25 or 26, said Lt. Jeff Kramer, spokesman for the sheriff’s office. The wounded lion was reported on Sunday.
“We don’t have any information available to us right now to suggest they are connected,” Kramer said Tuesday of the shootings. “We’ve taken all the cases and referred them to the investigations division.”
Investigators don’t know who might have shot the animals or why, Kramer said. Expended bullets were not found near the animals’ bodies or cages and investigators could have miles of prairie land to comb through to look for evidence.
“Here’s the challenge: one horse was shot in the chest, one was shot in the head. There was no mention of exit wound,” Kramer explained. “Obviously it’s very much a needle in a hay stack scenario.”
Detectives will be out in the community knocking on doors and talking to neighbors for leads, Kramer said.
Zazu, meanwhile, is on the mend, and taking antibiotics to treat an infection from the bullet wound, said the big cat’s owner, Nick Sculac on Tuesday. “If you’re gonna hunt, hunt. Still, that’s not hunting. They’re in a cage, the lion’s lying in a cage. Nobody’s hurt him for 19 years,” he said.
While Zazu recovers, Sculac will begin the search for evidence.
“Tomorrow we’re spending the day out here with a metal detector looking for bullets,” he said.
Contact Ryan Maye Handy: 636-0261