A couple who found a dead horse in the creek behind their Friendsville home over the weekend is having trouble having the carcass removed.
Wendy Westerfield discovered something in the creek Saturday, but could not confirm it was a horse until Sunday.
“I saw something shiny on Saturday morning, but it was still overcast and rainy, and there’s always so much just that gets washed up, so I didn’t think about it,” she said.
After returning home from a hunting trip Monday morning, Michael Westerfield went to inspect his wife’s sighting.
“I thought it was a piece of upholstery at first,” he said.
But it wasn’t. After walking to the area, Michael Westerfield discovered a full-grown horse carcass snagged on a rock with its head underwater. He said he believes the horse came downstream after the recent rain.
“If an animal is feeling sickly, they sometimes head to water, so it could have been that, or it could have been something malicious,” he said. “It’s just unknown.”
Michael Westerfield said his main concern is the carcass contaminating the water and making it unsafe to fish and swim in — something his children and neighbors’ children do frequently.
“When the buzzards rip it open or the snapping turtles rip it open, it’s too late,” he said. “It means no fishing or swimming for who knows how long.”
Immediately after discovering the horse, the couple went to work trying to figure out how to remove its body from the creek.
They started by calling the Blount County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy went to their home shortly after and made several phone calls to no avail.
Afterward, Michael Westerfield called the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, but a representative told him horses were considered domestic animals.
“It’s not a species that we manage,” TWRA spokesman Matt Cameron told The Daily Times. “Unless it were a navigational hazard, we wouldn’t address it.”
The next call was to the Tennessee Valley Authority, which also said it was unable to assist.
TVA representative Scott Brooks told The Daily Times that because the animal was found in a creek and not a major waterway, its removal does not fall under the responsibilities of the TVA. Brooks also said the authority rarely removes wildlife carcasses.
“I can’t think of any situation where we would do wildlife removal unless it was blocking a dam or something,” Brooks said.
The Westerfields also contacted eight large animal veterinarians’ offices, Horse Haven of Tennessee, Blount County Animal Center advisory committee and Maryville and Blount County Animal Control offices. All organizations told them the task was not theirs to tend to.
“‘Not our responsibility’ has been the message we’re getting from everybody,” Michael Westerfield said.
It was only after calling Blount County Commissioners Staci Lawhorn and Tom Stinnett that the Westerfields found hope.
Stinnett went to their home Wednesday, and Lawhorn gave them contact information for John Wilson, director of the Blount County Agriculture Extension.
The couple got in touch with the University of Tennessee Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, and UT representatives went to the property shortly after.
“UT came out and measured and is going to make something happen,” he said.
But as of Wednesday afternoon, no official plans had been made for the horse’s removal.
“We have buzzards circling over our house,” Michael Westerfield said.