Title

Multiple isotope forensics of nitrate in a wild horse poisoning incident

Abstract

Multiple stable isotope analysis can be a powerful technique in forensic sciences. Oxygen and nitrogen isotopes were used to determine the source of nitrate that was responsible for the poisoning deaths of 71 wild horses in the Nevada desert. The nitrate was present in a water-filled hole known as ‘the Main Lake depression.’ Nitrate from the Main Lake depression had δ18O and δ15N values that were very positive (+32‰, +37‰), and Δ17O values of approximately +2‰. The isotopic data suggested that the most probable source of the nitrate was nitrification of nitrogen from horse manure and urine that had leached into the pond. The δ18O signal suggested that extreme evaporative concentration had occurred, resulting in toxic levels of nitrate accumulating in the Main Lake depression. The study demonstrates the utility of the multiple stable isotope analysis approach for characterizing sources of nitrate.

Keywords

nitrate, isotopes, nitrogen, horse

Date of this Version

2010

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2010.01.012

Volume

198

Issue

1-3

Pages

103-109

Link Out to Full Text

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S037907381000037X