Rifle rancher thinks activism may have triggered retaliation
June 28, 2010
RIFLE, Colo. – A Mamm Creek rancher and critic of the gas drilling industry is wondering if his political activism might be linked to the recent shooting death of one of his horses.
Rick Roles, who lives in the region between Mamm Creek and West Mamm Creek south of Rifle, said this week that one of his stallions was shot and killed some time last week, between June 24 and June 26.
“He was missing Thursday afternoon, and I found him Saturday morning, gut shot,” Roles said.
Roles, who has reported noxious odors and fumes from nearby gas wells, along with claims that his health is negatively affected by the fumes, said he was not home for much of Thursday when the horse went missing.
“I leave every morning to get out of the fumes,” he said.
Following a trail of blood that started near a horse trailer on his 180-acre property, he located the horse on Saturday.
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Roles said he believes that the horse was shot with a rifle, after a check of the carcass revealed “a half-inch entry wound and an exit hole about as big as your fist.”
He estimated that it took the horse about 20 to 30 minutes to expire from blood loss and shock.
Phillip Strouse, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said a deputy had gone to the scene and had spoken with Roles on June 27, and that the case is under investigation.
This is not the first time one of his stallions has been shot under mysterious circumstances, Roles said.
Two years ago another stallion, “the daddy of all my horses,” also was shot while out grazing. Because it was rifle hunting season, Roles said, authorities concluded it was an accidental shooting, though no one was ever found who might have been responsible.
But this time, Roles hypothesized, the shooting might have been meant as a message. He said that it was kind of a coincidence that the horse was shot right after the last film came out.
Roles has been featured in two films about the impacts of the gas industry in western Colorado – “Split Estate,” by filmmaker Debra Anderson and narrated by Ali MacGraw, which came out in 2009, and “Gasland,” by filmmaker Josh Fox, recently released and aired on HBO – and a book, “Collateral Damage,” written by Garfield County resident Tara Meixsell.
The two films portray the gas industry as causing significant environmental and health impacts to the communities in the regions where they are working. Both have drawn heavy criticism from industry officials, who say that many of the facts cited in the films are inaccurate hyperbole.
The book is billed as a “journal” of Meixsell’s life and times in the “gas patch.”