Death toll mounts from BLM wild horse roundup

Wyoming Wild Horses free on the open range, where they belong.

Newly-Obtained Records Reveal At Least 75 Mustangs Died in Holding Pens After Capture from Wyoming Checkerboard


Rock Springs, Wyoming (April 14, 2015) — Over 75 wild horses captured in Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) fall 2014 “Wyoming Checkerboard roundup” died in the days and months after capture, adding significantly to the official death toll from this capture operation in the Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek and Divide Basin Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in southwestern Wyoming.

Previously, the BLM had reported the deaths of 14 horses as a direct result of the helicopter roundup, but records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) show a significantly higher death toll.

    “BLM often touts a death rate of one percent for helicopter roundups, but these records shed light on the very significant number of deaths that occur in the holding facilities in the days and months after the horses are rounded up,” said Suzanne Roy, Campaign Director of the AWHPC. “The leading cause of death is traumatic injury – primarily broken necks from terrified horses crashing into the bars of their holding pens in desperate escape attempts.”

    “These records are further evidence of the trauma, terror and suffering that the BLM inflicts on America’s wild horses and burros with its roundup program,” Roy continued. “This cruel treatment is far below the standard Americans expect for treatment of our national icons. We have a choice to continue to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to brutally roundup and remove wild horses from their homes on the range, or we can humanely manage them in the wild using the effective and cheaper PZP birth control vaccine, where necessary, to control population numbers.”

This controversial roundup resulted in the capture and removal of 1,263 wild horses between September 15 and October 9, 2014.

The records obtained show:

• 22 horses died due to traumatic injury in the holding pens, including broken necks, spinal and pelvis injuries, fatal leg damage sustained in the helicopter stampede; another 7 horses died due to lameness.

• 12 horses die from complications due to gelding, including hemorrhaging to death.

• 1 horses died from strangles, a highly contagious respiratory infected which can become rampant in holding facilities.

The actual death toll is even higher, AWHPC noted, because the numbers do not include deaths of foals who perish before they are old enough to be branded and entered into the BLM’s tracking system.

Previously, AWHPC analyzed post-capture deaths from the 2010 Calico Mountains wild horse roundup in Nevada and found that the majority of deaths were related to the trauma and stress of the roundup and capture, the trauma associated with social loss sustained in the destruction of horse family bands, and the ongoing stress of captivity in an unnatural environment

    “The bad news for wild horses only begins with the gather,” wrote Dr. Bruce Nock, Associate Professor at the Washington University School of Medicine and expert on the physiological effects of stress on animals, in a 2010 report prepared for the AWHPC. “To these wild horses, the sources of stress must seem endless. Everything is foreign … truly disturbing for a species that depends on familiarity for safety and comfort . . . It is extremely detrimental to their long-term health and soundness.”

Last month, AWHPC, The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom and photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl, represented by Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal, won a partial victory in their lawsuit against the BLM for the checkerboard roundup, when a U.S. District Court judge in Wyoming ruled that the BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act in proceeding with the roundup in the absence of proper analysis and public input.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. AWHPC was founded in 2004 by Return to Freedom.

BLM critic Grijalva tours wild horse corrals in Nevada

Cross-posted from the LA Times


U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). Google image.
U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). Google image.

LAS VEGAS — A major government critic of the Bureau of Land Management’s treatment of wild horses in the West was in Nevada on Wednesday to inspect an agency corral housing 1,500 mustangs recently rounded up from federal range land.

Arizona Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, the top Democrat on a congressional panel on public lands, is taking a tour with several animal advocates for a up-close view of a program that has divided activists and federal officials in 10 states across the West.

“The congressman has been tracking the wild horse and burro issue for pretty much the entire time he’s been on committee, over the last 10 years,” Brandon Bragato, a senior legislative assistant for the congressman, told the Los Angeles Times. “He’s concerned with the way the BLM is managing these animals and the techniques they’re using to restrict herd size on the range. He wants to take a look at the program.”

Grijalva is the ranking member of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation who was elected in 2002 in the 3rd District representing Tucson.

The tour will take place at the BLM’s temporary holding facility in Palomino Valley north of Reno, where critics say animals have been treated inhumanely and that several animal deaths have occurred. Read more >>

Judge grants TRO to stop sale of wild horses

Order could delay tomorrow’s sale of nearly 500 horses at Fallon Livestock Exchange


Captured Owyhee Foal. Photo: Laura Leigh.

RENO, Nev, (August 16, 2013) — A federal court judge in Reno, NV has granted a coalition of wild horse advocacy and conservation groups a Temporary Restraining Order to block the sale of unbranded horses at a slaughter auction tomorrow in Fallon, Nevada. The groups sued to stop the sale of unbranded horses who were captured last weekend on public and tribal lands in northern Nevada, alleging that unbranded horses were likely federally-protected wild horses originating from the nearby Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Little Owyhee Herd Management Area.

The order throws into question tomorrow’s auction at the Fallon Livestock Exchange, where nearly 500 horses are sitting in pens awaiting their fate. The horses in question were rounded up by the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone tribe with approval of the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM. In response to the lawsuit filed by the public interest firm Meyer, Gltizenstein & Crystal with local counsel Gordon B. Cowan on behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, its founding organization Return to Freedom, The Cloud Foundation, the Western Watersheds Project and advocate Laura Leigh, U.S. District Court Judge Miranda M. Du found:

“Plaintiffs have shown serious questions …that wild horses were improperly rounded up during the gather from August 11-13, 2013. .. Plaintiffs have demonstrated an immediate threat of irreparable harm if the status quo is not maintained, that is the sale of wild horses and their possible slaughter. . . . The public interest is served when the Court maintains the status quo to ensure wild horses are not improperly removed and auctioned for sale to potentially be slaughtered because of an agency action.”

Du’s TRO prohibits the sale of all unbranded horses at tomorrow’s slaughter auction until the hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, August 21, 2013.

Du’s TRO prohibits the sale of all unbranded horses at tomorrow’s slaughter auction until the hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, August 21, 2013.

“I wish we could save them all.” Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “And I hope this ruling sends a message to the US Forest service that business as usual is a thing of the past.” “I’d like to thank my caring colleagues and our attorneys for their tireless work to save our wild horses.”

“Judge Du has stepped in to do what the federal government refused to do: act to prevent federally protected wild horses from being sold at a slaughter auction,” said Suzanne Roy, Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. “We are grateful for this federal court decision, but remain outraged by the federal government’s complicity in this dirty operation that has sentenced hundreds of horses to horrific deaths at slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico.”

“Like the nearly 170 horses that I rescued from this livestock auction three years ago, many of these horses are wild horses who were removed from federal lands. They were denied federal protection under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and the judge has taken a stand for all those mares, foals, yearlings and mature stallions who are a day away from being sold to kill buyers and sent to slaughter,” said Ellie Phipps Price, AWHPC supporter and owner of the renowned Durell Vineyard in Sonoma, California. “The tribes and the U.S. government need to choose birth control for wild horses over roundup and slaughter.”

“We want to get to the bottom of this and understand how wild horses may have been compromised through stealth negotiations between the federal government and the tribe,” said Neda DeMayo, President of Return to Freedom. “It is the legal responsibility of the Forest Service and the BLM to preserve and protect wild horses on our public lands. When wild horses roam outside of their designated Herd Management Areas, it should be the concern of these agencies to return them to their rangelands — not support covert horse trading deals sending wild horses to auction and slaughter.”

“Sometimes the fight to protect our wild horses is difficult and complex. This decision shows that when we all work together and stay the course, we can achieve our mutual goals,” said Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education. “I am proud to be part of this effort. Together, we can turn this around to save America’s mustangs on our public lands in the West.”

A total of 467 horses were captured by the tribe and delivered to the slaughter auction, where they await their fate. An undetermined number of these horses are unbranded and likely to be wild horses. The Forest Service has acknowledged that most of these horses will be purchased by kill buyers and trucked to slaughter plants in Canada or Mexico. Photographs of the horses show hundreds of mares and foals, along with yearlings and adults crammed into pens at the stockyard.

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Lawsuit Filed to Stop Sale of Wild Horses at Slaughter Auction on Saturday

Feds Allow Unbranded, Federally-Protected Wild Horses to be Sent to Slaughter Auction

USDA Postpones Controversial Round Up of Wild Horses for Slaughter

USDA Shuts Down Public Observation at Controversial Wild Horse Roundup;
Horses Slated for Slaughter Auction

USDA Shady Plan to Round Up Wild Horses for Slaughter Revealed

Slaughter auction of wild horses allowed by Federal Judge

Nearly 500 wild horses will go on the block Saturday, August 17, 2013, at the Fallon Livestock Auction, which is frequented by slaughterhouse buyers


Lady Liberty (c) Bill Frymire

Reno, NV (Aug. 16, 2013) — Today Wild Horse Education’s (WHE) President Laura Leigh and her attorney had an in In Chambers hearing today on a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) filed in Reno federal district court to halt an auction to be held this Saturday in Fallon Nevada of federally protected wild horses.

Judge Miranda Du heard arguments and ruled that Plaintiff did not have enough proof that the horses that will most likely go to slaughter were federally protected wild horses. A declaration, made by Shaynie Rockefeller, Vale district BLM Oregon that was filed within minutes of the hearing, stated that BLM had knowledge of the removal (even though it was originally denied) and that Shaynie informed the tribes where the horses were. The declaration further states that the Owyhee Complex boundaries are less than 20 miles from the area that tribal members removed horses off BLM land. Her observations were limited to holding. Yet the Judge had the opinion that Ms. Rockefeller’s assertion that “no wild horses were taken” was first hand knowledge. Plaintiff Leigh had no first hand knowledge of the removals because observation of operations was not permitted.

Even though both the original Complaint filed in January and the amended Complaint filed this month both address BLMs failure to identify true excess horses, BLMs lack of data on wild horse movement and BLMs failure to manage horses as intended under the Act the Judge appears to have had the opinion that BLM entering into a separate agreement with Tribal authorities to remove unidentified excess wild horses did not relate to the previous Complaints.

“BLM argues that a failure to act was not the same as an inappropriate act,” stated Leigh “a police officer can not turn his head if he sees a murder. It is my opinion that the court has allowed the policing agency to simply turn it’s head as wild horses are likely to be murdered. A simple DNA test would have proven one way or another if BLM failed to protect wild horses. I am literally beside myself knowing what those horses at auction will face.”

The case for the Owyhee Complex wild horses continues against the lack of data and inhumane treatment in the current operation plan. However after a TRO was filed last week against bait trapping at Snowstorm (Owyhee Complex) it appears that at this juncture BLM has cancelled that operation.

It is unknown at this time if the court will hear a second filing for a TRO against the Forest Service.

~~~ is a Nevada non-profit carrying three active federal cases against the BLM. Wild Horse Education stands ready to assist BLM to gain the information needed to create a sane and sensible management plan that does not rely on removal as its only strategy and that fails to treat wild horses and burros humanely.