Authorities in northern Idaho who recently found four dead horses and eight others that were malnourished say high feed prices could lead to more such cases.

“We all know that hay and feed prices are skyrocketing and that causes some people to not properly nourish their animals,” said Kootenai County sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger. “We need to hear about that.”

Animal control officers last week found two dead horses at the former Coeur d’Alene Auction Yards, along with eight malnourished horses and five others that appeared OK. Officers gave the unidentified owner instructions for proper care.

But when authorities returned on Monday they found nothing had changed and seized the horses. Authorities then checked another site that Wolfinger said is owned by the same person and found two more dead horses.

In all, 13 horses were seized, and are being held by Panhandle Equine Rescue. They are being treated by veterinarians, officials said.

Wolfinger said an investigation should be complete next week, at which time the county prosecutor’s office will decide whether to file charges.

Christy Hilbert, manager of Rathdrum Country Store, said hay prices have gone from $97 per ton last year to more than $180 a ton this year.

“I think it’s a big problem,” said Hilbert, who said she had to sell two of her horses so she could feed the other three.

Drought and farmers switching from growing hay to growing corn for ethanol are among the factors that have contributed to rising hay prices.