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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County officials are investigating after a Cordova man says he stumbled on dozens of decomposing horse and deer carcasses dumped near a trail just south of Shelby Farms Park.

Robert Colbert, an avid mountain biker, said he often takes a trail that winds near the old county landfill off Walnut Grove Road. He said he and others smelled something on the trail that made them investigate.

That’s when he says he found the dead animals on the backside of the landfill.

“There were anywhere from 10 to 15 horses and probably 20 to 30 deer, and they were in all forms of decomposition,” Colbert said. “There were some that were much ‘fresher’ or ‘newer’ than others and there were some that you could tell had been there for qute some time.”

Warning: Graphic photo below

Robert Colbert said he shot this picture showing several dead horses near Walnut Grove and Farm Road.

Candice Grose, public information officer for Shelby County, said the county is trying to figure out where the carcasses came from, and prevent this from happening in the future. For now, she said they’ve been removed.

“The animal carcasses have been removed and properly disposed of, and the situation is being investigated,” Grose said in a statement. “Shelby County Roads and Bridges Division has extensive records documenting every animal carcass that is picked up and every customer that is billed for the pick-up service. We will continue to monitor this situation to identify where the carcasses came from and to prevent future incidents like this from happening.”

Some animal advocates were upset at the situation.

Jill Haag, executive director of Southern Reins Center for Equine Therapy, said it’s the responsibility of horse owners to dispose of their animals in a dignified way, including burial, cremation, composting or rendering. 

“It is very upsetting when deceased horses are dumped in this way,” Haag said. “Not only is it a public health and safety concern, it is a dishonorable way to treat these majestic creatures.”

Colbert said friends saw workers load carcasses into a white truck that was sitting outside the landfill office Tuesday.

“I felt like that there’s a way to get rid of animals, and this is not the way to get rid of them,” Colbert said. “It’s very, very disheartening to me and my friends that this is going on.”

Shelby Farms Park officials said they had been alerted to the situation and told the county about it, but they said the property, which is south of Walnut Grove, is not part of Shelby Farms Park.