A mother and daughter were disgusted to find a mob of brumbies shot dead beside a Victorian road after a camping trip to photograph the iconic wild horses.
Sandra Stanton and her daughter Tegan took a series of sickening pictures when they came across the eight slaughtered animals on a stretch of road in East Gippsland, north-eastern Victoria.
Ms Stanton said each of brumbies had been shot once in the neck, face or stomach, and some appeared to have been left to die slow and painful deaths.
This filly had been shot in the face and then perhaps bashed in the head with a rock
Sandra Stanton and her daughter Tegan found eight dead brumbies after a camping trip
The mother and daughter were shocked to find eight brumbies, including this horse, shot dead
A brumby shot dead by the road in East Gippsland on the weekend of October 14-15
‘It was horrible,’ Ms Stanton told Daily Mail Australia. ‘My daughter just burst into tears.
‘I kept saying to her to come back to the car. She just kept saying, “Mum, they could be alive, there could be foals”.’
The mother, 51, and daughter, 31, had gone camping in Native Dog Flat in the Alpine National Park at the southern end of the Snowy Mountains on Friday, October 13.
The horse breeders from Ensay had taken one of their regular weekend trips to photograph the majestic brumbies in the wild.
‘Whenever we can we get up the bush and photograph the brumbies,’ Ms Stanton said. ‘That’s what we go up for.
‘It gets us away for a weekend, just the two of us. That’s what we love to do. We just love the horses.’
This brumby was shot in the neck and left to die near a road in Victoria’s East Gippsland
Two brumby fillies shot dead and left near a road in north-eastern Victoria’s East Gippsland
Sandra Stanton (left) and daughter Tegan (right) found eight brumbies shot dead in Victoria
This brumby mare was shot and left beside a road in Victoria’s East Gippsland this month
The pair saw nothing unusual on the Friday afternoon as they drove along Limestone Road but on their return on Sunday spotted a dead horse on the gravel about 20 kilometres east of Benambra.
Stopping their Nissan Navara, the Stantons realised the dead mare on the road had been shot along with two other mares and two fillies on sloping grassland nearby.
‘My daughter was frantic,’ Ms Stanton said. ‘She thought there’s got to be little foals and there might be some alive.
‘She was checking behind logs and in blackberries and so on because that’s where the little foals will hide themselves.
The site of eight brumbies shot dead near a road in East Gippsland distressed Sandra Stanton
Tegan Stanton takes a picture of a brumby the day before she found eight horses shot dead
This brumby filly was part of a mob of eight horses shot dead by the road in East Gippsland
Horse breeder Sandra Stanton believes some of the dead brumbies died slowly and painfully
‘We were thinking that a stallion would have to be somewhere.’
After photographing the dead brumbies the pair continued their trip home but found two more fillies and a stallion shot dead about one kilometre down the road.
‘They were all hunted and shot,’ Ms Stanton said. ‘The whole mob was shot.’
‘And they weren’t killed instantly, the poor things.’
Ms Stanton said it was clear some of the animals had been moving after they were shot. ‘We could see drag marks,’ she said.
One brumby could have been finished-off with blows to the head from a rock.
‘She’d done quite a bit of thrashing around and the rock beside her had quite a bit of blood on it,’ Ms Stanton said.
Police are investigating the deaths of eight brumbies shot in Victoria’s rural East Gippsland
Considered an icon of the High Country, brumbies are treated as pests by some farmers
Four brumbies shot dead in East Gippsland are visible in this picture taken by Sandra Stanton
Sandra Stanton and her daughter Tegan found eight brumbies shot dead on October 15
While she had no idea who had committed the atrocity, Ms Stanton did not believe it was the work of one person.
‘For one shooter, it would be impossible to shoot that many horses like that in that area,’ she said.
‘They were obviously high-powered guns. Just one (bullet) in each. They didn’t waste too much ammunition.’
Ms Stanton, who was not sure if the horses had been shot in state forest or on leased Crown land, said she reported what she found to police, who confirmed they were investigating.
‘I was absolutely gutted, she said. ‘Absolutely gutted. My daughter and I drove the rest of the way home for about an hour in complete silence.
Sandra Stanton was taking pictures of brumbies before she found eight of them shot dead
Two of eight brumbies shot dead by a road in north-eastern Victoria’s rural East Gippsland
Some of the brumbies found dead by a road in East Gippsland had been shot in the neck
‘I couldn’t think of a word to say. Couldn’t believe someone could do that.
‘I have seen a lot of horses hot in my time but nothing like that.’
‘I never want anybody to see what we’ve seen again.’
For many Australians, brumbies conjure striking images from Banjo Paterson’s poem The Man From Snowy River and the 1982 film of the same name.
But for environmentalists and some farmers who live in the High Country the wild horses are a pest, degrading the landscape and competing with livestock for feed.
A police source said of the animals found by Ms Stanton: ‘It wouldn’t be the first incident of its kind.’
‘It’s been an issue up in that area for years. Hunters go up there looking for deer. Deer’s not there and they shoot anything else that’s there.’
The site of eight brumbies shot dead by a road in Easert Gippsland left Tegan Stanton in tears