Alarm at BLM’s surprise start to castrate Calico Mustangs as death toll rises


New report on equine stress released as Foundation denied access to view the captured Calico wild horses in Nevada

Reno, NV (April 23, 2010)—Unexpected castrating of captured male mustangs, four years old and younger, by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) started behind closed doors on Friday, April 16th in the Fallon holding pens of Nevada. Many depressed horses with swollen scrotums have been observed. The public understood that the castration of the Calico wild horses would not occur until the In Defense of Animals court case was heard in May as there is a possibility of returning the wild horses to their protected public rangelands.

For months, requests for daily monitoring by humane observers have been repetitively denied at the new private facility contracted by the BLM. Now a request to visit the feedlot-style facility by Executive Director of the Cloud Foundation and Emmy-Award winning filmmaker, Ginger Kathrens, has been denied as well.

Outraged members of the public will hold protests in multiple cities because of the BLM’s lack of transparency and cruel roundups. The first rally is planned for Sunday, April 25th near Las Vegas at Red Rocks Park from 12:00- 2:00 p.m.

BLM seems determined to create a missing generation of mustangs” states Terri Farley, an award-winning children’s author and a plaintiff in the Calico case. “In their care, 86 horses have died, more than 40 mares have aborted their late term foals and now they’ve castrated an undisclosed number of young stallions.”

On April 19th Ginger Kathrens, was denied access to visit the private wild horse holding facility in Fallon, Nevada. BLM holds fast to its policy of restricting viewing to Sundays for a few hours— a time when the horses are not being handled by the BLM. An email to Kathrens from BLM Deputy Division Chief of the Wild Horse and Burro Program, Dean Bolstad, he stated in part “The facility (Fallon) is not staffed adequately to host visitation on a daily basis or upon demand. Each time we conduct a tour, staff have to travel from Reno or Palomino Valley.”

Kathrens responded that, “Since visitation is denied except for a brief two hours on Sundays, it causes your ‘management’ practices to appear less transparent. Consequently, this restriction/limitation ends-up being counter productive to your educational and public relations efforts. I hope that this practice will change in the near future so people such as myself can fully view the facility and the horses — and feel like we’re invited and informed partners in the care of our national wild horse treasures.”

According to a newly released report by Bruce Nock, PhD entitled “Wild Horses, The Stress of Captivity” the deaths and abortions can be attributed in part to the sheer stress of the roundup. This report was released in conjunction with “BLM Calico Complex Roundup: A Case Study of a Broken System for Horses and Taxpayers” a report by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC).

Dr. Bruce Nock, Associate Professor at the Washington University School of Medicine and expert on the physiological effects of stress on animals, wrote: “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say, as gathers [roundups] are routinely done in the USA, if a wild horse doesn’t die straight off from the immediate devastation and commotion, it compromises him/her physically and mentally, putting him on a path of accelerated deterioration.”

Even during the limited once a week visits, members of the public have observed the horses being fed moldy hay, which can cause serious illness and death to horses of all ages. The feeding of the moldy hay was noted and photographed on the automatic feeding trucks most recently on Sunday, April 18. Other photographs underscore the lack of cover for the horses, the extreme dust during frequent windy periods, and the presence of sand and even small rocks in the hay being fed to the once wild and free roaming Calico horses. A serious illness known as sand colic results from ingesting sand and has been known to be fatal in many cases.

The reports we get from citizens able to get in to see and document the captive wild horses during the once a week staged tours are awful. This shameful taxpayer funded nightmare behind closed doors must stop!” states Kathrens.

The Calico Mountain Complex wild horse roundup has drawn intense public attention worldwide. BLM went forward despite historic public opposition and a recommendation from US District Federal District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman to postpone the roundup. Despite the increased scrutiny, the roundup has been a disaster for the nearly 2000 federally protected mustangs.

In late December government contracted helicopters took to the air, rounding up every horse they could find on the vast 500,000 acre Calico range—an area designated principally for wild horse use since 1971 but grazed by thousands of privately-owned, government-subsidized cattle. The roundup and short-term holding of the Calico mustangs has cost at least $1.3 million to American taxpayers while causing injury and death to hundreds of wild horses.

The 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act placed the authority for managing wild horses and burros primarily in the hands of the BLM. 54,000 wild horses and burros comprised 303 herds throughout the West when BLM conducted the first population census in 1974. Since that time, over 100 herds have been completely eliminated and the current range population is believed to be less than half what it was in 1974. This roundup and removal policy is fast leading to the extinction of wild horses and burros in the West.

At the same time the BLM strips federal land of wild horses and burros it is supposed to be protecting, it props up a public lands grazing program that costs American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year” states Rob Pliskin, a BLM volunteer and wild horse supporter.

36,000 wild horses are currently in holding facilities instead of roaming in the lands designated for their use. Over 24 million acres have been withdrawn from wild horse and burro use. The BLM “welfare ranching” practices continue—allowing the land to be leased primarily to corporations at minimum fees of $1.35 per cow/calf pair or per five head of sheep per month along with land leases to extractive and energy industries on Western public lands.

# # #

Media Contacts:

Makendra Silverman
Tel: 719-351-8187

Anne Novak
Tel: 415-531-8454

Photos, video and interviews available from:

The Cloud Foundation
107 S. 7th St. – Colorado Springs, CO 80905
719-633-3842 ~

The Cloud Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.

11 thoughts on “Alarm at BLM’s surprise start to castrate Calico Mustangs as death toll rises”

  1. BLM employees are bullies! Plain and simple. How does one deal with bullies?
    Sometimes you have to get your big brother to come and give them a taste of their own medicine. Remember the orginial Bob Abbey, the REAL enviromentalist, who wrote _-“Desert Solititude ” and “The Monkey Wrench Gang”wonder what he would do?


  2. i am completely horrified at this total betrayal of the BLM, we must get this stopped immediately……….all of my phone calls are ignored by the President……I want our mustangs returned to where they belong, I will not take silence as an answer, this is AMERICA, of the people By the People for the people!!! Have we ever been asked what our opinion is…..or what our thoughts are????? My God These Mustangs Belong to us, The BLM does not own even one of them, they are merely supose to protect them, what part of this do they not understand?????… I have spoken to them on many occasions, they deny , everything, They run on all there own authority, they do not care nor have they ever cared about Our Mustangs, how long are we going to continue to allow them to terrorize and out and out in plain sight destroy our MUSTANGS. We must be over looking something here???????? on how to stop them……


  3. The BLM is keeping US citizens from US horses,perhaps the BLM would be of far better use on the Mexican Border keeping foreigners from entering the US…


  4. We all agree this is beyond belief. Who is the top dog in charge of this fiasco? I want to know. THEN we decide how to get his/her attention to make this stop. These horses must be set free. Personally, I am all for castrating all the human males of any age who are in charge of this trainwreck. Seems sensible enough to me that they should be out of the human gene pool. Seriously, who do we need to contact? Congressmen seem to have no ears, no eyes, no brain. Who can make a difference in a speedy way?


    1. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is at the top of the heap, except for the President, who appointed him. This was an election payback in my opinion. Salazar gave Obama a much needed Colorado to help him win. Salazar is pro ranching and pro cattle, who are the main opposition with their welfare ranching. Yet it is not the common rancher, but the biggest welfare ranchers of them all, the corporate ranchers. We have been appealing to the President for months, ringing the White House phone off the wall, rallies across the country, emailing, faxing, writing letters. Congress will do nothing unless we can find a super power player. You will have to find someone who can out maneuver Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. Good look with finding someone who will go against him on this issue.

      We may appeal to Michelle Obama, but would it be dirty pool to appeal to her children? Perhaps. They are exceedingly sensitive about politicizing with the children. Yet what options to we have left when Barack Obama continues to totally ignore us. All we have asked for is (1) to stop the round ups (2) investigate the BLM. I mean really. How demanding or unreasonable is that considering what has been and is still going on? There are only 10-15 thousand or so left in the wild depending on who is counting.


  5. can someone please post the pictures(and give permissions to use) of the things mentioned like the moldy hay so we can post the pictures with questions around in public.

    This stuff has to get in public view, just so hidden these issues are on horse messageboards.


    1. I don’t know if pictures of the moldy hay exist or have been posted. Anyone know that can link to them for us?

      It is so difficult to get pictures of anything because of the total lack of transparency, no public viewing except for a handful of humane observers let in every now and then, and they are closely watched.


  6. This is just Nuts. Were is the govenor of Nevada this is happening in his state.
    Maybe some of the BLM and goverment employees should be given a way to speak out. TV Shows were they are interviewed with their face blacked out. There has to be a couple movie stars etc that can make it more public.
    People need to know what goes on maybe then they would put a stop to some of it.
    This is just so Insane


  7. Can’t someone file an emergency hearing regarding the castrating of these young stallions? Also since when are the blm allowed to keep our wild horses on private lands. Aren’t they required to keep them on Public lands. These are OUR wild horses not the blms privately owned horses to keep hidden. If we can not observe what they are doing then I think someone needs to sneek In and set our horses FREE!


    1. Hello, Carryl. Thank you for joining in. From what we understand, the BLM contracts with the landowners who in turn say they do not want members of the public stomping around on their ground. How convenient. This is a total lack of the transparency Obama promised the Nation on all issues. The destruction of our wild horses and burros reached critical masse years ago, and still the cruelties and murder go on. It is so out of hand, so blatant, so criminal and so evil it hurts my heart. All of the politicians, elected officials, Members of Congress, BLM employees, and especially Barack Obama, should hang their heads in abject shame. I don’t know what else to say. I have been told by many government employees – including the BLM’s – they abhor what is happening. Maybe they should have a mass walkout. If we could, we would have a mass walkin! Of course we would be met with guns and rifles.


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