The killing of a girl's horse in Todd County, at first thought to be a gruesome instance of animal abuse, is more likely a case of a deer hunter making a mistake, the Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.
The horse, Savannah, was discovered by 11-year-old Katie Symalla on Saturday afternoon on the family's Long Prairie, Minn., property. The horse's head had extensive cuts and an eyeball was missing, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Long Prairie is about 100 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.
Chief Deputy Bryan Tebben said his investigators are treating the animal's death as "a simple hunting accident" that probably occurred before dawn on Saturday, the opening day of the firearms deer-hunting season. Tebben stressed that he does not believe it was a case of deliberate mutilation.
He asked that anyone who was involved or has information call his office at 1-800-794-5733. Those involved could potentially be charged with damaging property, trying to cover up the incident or both.
Tebben said the horse had the "exact colors" and bore a "striking resemblance to a fat deer ... in the dark, anyway."
The cuts in the horse's head suggests to Tebben that whoever shot Savannah was looking for the bullet as a means to conceal the shooting and "not trying to mutilate the animal." He said the property is near hunting land. "We get animals mistaken [by hunters] for deer all the time," Tebben said.
"She was my best friend in the whole wide world," Katie told WCCO-TV. "I never wanted her to be lost."