Forty Welsh ponies discovered dead Saturday on Fremont Island in the Great Salt Lake were shot by an Idaho man leasing the island to raise sheep, an attorney for the island's long-time owners said Tuesday morning.

The leaser was within his legal rights to kill the ponies, according to local attorney Bruce L. Dibb, who represents John and Steve Richards and several others who own the small island, located north of Antelope Island.Dibb said the leaser, Dallin Ward, Alma, Idaho, destroyed the animals when efforts to remove the ponies alive proved economically infeasible. Dibb said Ward's lease allowed for him to "control or remove" the animals in a lawful manner.

The island's pony population recently totaled about 150 , but that number was reduced significantly by several costly round-ups. The remaining ponies could not be removed in a cost-effective manner, Dibb said.

Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Archie Smith said he's been in contact with Dibb and is convinced no foul play is involved in the ponies' deaths. He's also been in contact with the Humane Society of Utah and it appears no law was broken.

The ponies were discovered Saturday by a private pilot flying over the island.

Utah state veterinarian Dr. Michael R. Marshall confirmed earlier the ponies deaths were not related to disease, a shortage of water or aerial spraying. Marshall speculated the animals, which had been dead for several weeks, had been shot. His examinations showed large pools of blood within the body cavities indicating trauma.

Marshall said because of the information supplied by Dibb, he's not planning to do an autopsy.