Canadian horseowners in Edmonton are growing increasingly concerned for the safety of their animals after a second horse was found shot dead in its field.

Seven horses have been killed and 12 attacked since the mystery gunman first struck in autumn 2000.

In the first incident, a horse breeder in St. Paul,Alta., 200km north-east of Edmonton found five of his horses shot, four had to be destroyed.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RMCP) are investigating the latest shootings and are urging all owners to be vigilant.

Last week Tayna Hollasch found one of her horses, a three-year-old mare, shot dead and another injured. She told the Globe newspaper that the incident had a devastating effect on her family.

“We’re all scared to go out. My son is nine and all he does is cry – he’s worried he’ll wake up in the morning and his horse will be dead.”

The latest victim was an eight-year-old Percheron called King, who was killed by a single bullet straight through his heart. Described as a “gentle giant”, King was something of a local celebrity, appearing every year in Edmonton’s Christmas street parade.

John Thomas, from the RCMP National Communications Services, said : “One horse was shot and another injured – the incident is currently under investigation.”

All of the attacks have taken place along a stretch of highway in northern Alberta between Edmonton and Bonnyville. The RCMP have so far not linked the shootings to the work of one man, but residents in the area are claiming there is a clear link.

Debbie Villeneuve, whose two horses were shot three weeks ago told the Globe news service: “There is a serial freak out there.”