KALISPELL, Mont. - A Western Montana family is worried a horse thief hit their herd. It happened in Ronan, just south of Polson.
That's where Victoria Templer and her daughter Zjani Salazar say they returned from a little over a week away to find five of their 19 horses had gone missing.
The two women talked to investigators in Lake County, and so did we. Turns out, finding the horses might be a lot more difficult than you'd think.
Think of it this way -- if you don't have the VIN number for your car and it turns up missing, you could be out of luck, especially if it's been removed or scratched off.
No VIN number, no way to prove ownership, and that's exactly the type of problem Templer and Salazar face with their horses.
"That horse was my best friend and I just miss her a lot. It's hard to think that she's gone," said Salazar.
Salazar and her mother Victoria Templer got an unwelcome surprise when they came home from a trip. Five horses were missing from a gated pasture.
"At first we thought they were in the back pasture," said Salazar. "It's a big property and some of them don't always come. So we decided to come back and check the next day and that's when we realized they were gone."
The two explain the herd was spooked, but there was no evidence a predator had been there.
Salazar is unsure what could have happened to them, but believes the horses were stolen, as they could have some value if they were sold.
"Very young, very healthy. They looked like well built horses."
Add in the fact that they weren't branded, and it makes them think the horses were stolen. No brand, no chip makes the horses virtually untraceable.
Salazar says she doesn't believe in branding, but since the horses went missing, she's changed her mind.
"Yes absolutely after this. I think it'll be hard for me and my mother, we're very much animal lovers, we have an abundance here on the farm."
For now, they'll continue to spread the word, keep an eye out, and hope that what they consider their family members are returned home.
According to Montana law, if someone is found to have stolen any type of livestock, it automatically is a felony charge, no matter what the animal or the price.
If you have any information on the missing horses, you can call the Lake County Sheriff's Office at 883-7301.
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