CASPER — Horsehair thieves have clipped off parts of the tails of about 100 Wyoming horses in recent weeks, prompting an investigation by state officials.
It’s not clear why the horsehair is being stolen or whether the incidents are connected.
The Casper Star-Tribune reported Thursday that local officials have reported 61 clipped tails in Natrona County, about 30 in Converse, eight to 10 in Fremont and two in Sweetwater.
The counties are contiguous in the central and southwestern parts of the state.
Officials from the four counties tentatively plan to meet next week to discuss any similarities among the incidents, said Wade Werbelow, a Wyoming Livestock Board inspector who said he started investigating on Wednesday.
Horsehair is primarily used as extensions to make show horses’ tails look fuller, said Joan Mace, a part-owner of M & M Turf Supply, an Ohio business that sells horsehair.
It’s also used in belts and jewelry, and potters sometimes use it in a process that creates patterns in their work.
A bundle of horsehair usually sells for about $47 a pound, Mace said, but it has to be cleaned up, sanitized and straightened before it can be sold — probably more work than a thief would be willing to put into it for the price it brings.
“It gets manure in it, it gets dirt,” she said Thursday. “It isn’t that clean, pretty thing you see in the movies.”
Most of the thefts in Natrona County have been in areas away from neighborhood watch groups but easily accessible by road, Sheriff’s Lt. Gus Holbrook said.
“We’re not getting any reports clear out in the country,” he said.
Investigators have marked the locations of the thefts on a map but that produced few clues.
“This tells us the pattern is very random,” Holbrook said.
The Natrona County sheriff has deployed extra patrols in vulnerable areas but authorities need residents’ help, Holbrook said.
“To put a stop to it, we’ll need the public’s help,” he said.