The U.S. Forest Service plans to start a monthlong helicopter roundup of 1,000 wild horses from the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory, located about seven miles north of Alturas, Calif., on Oct. 9.
“Reducing the population will allow range and riparian ecological conditions to recover, while also supporting wild horse herd health by reducing competition for limited food, water and habitat,” the Forest Service wrote in a press release.
Most of the wild horses captured and separated by age and gender will be transported to the Bureau of Land Management’s Litchfied Corrals, located east of Susanville, Calif., where they will be offered for adoption.
Captured wild horses ages 10-older will be taken to the new Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals at Modoc National Forest.
The 232,520-acre Devils Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory has an agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” of 206-402 wild horses. Forest Service planning documents placed the population at 1,124 in 2013.
By comparison, the Forest Service permits 26,880 Animal Unit Months of private grazing on the wild horse territory. One Animal Unit Month is defined as a month’s forage for one horse, one cow / calf pair or five sheep. Actual livestock use varied between 63-73% of the permitted maximum from 2006-12, according to Forest Service planning documents.
In October 2016, 290 wild horses were captured in a helicopter roundup at Devils Garden. The Forest Service in 2017 took the unusual step of releasing 53 mares captured during the roundup after they were passed over for adoption. All were treated with fertility control.
Management of wild horses at Devil’s Garden, home of California’s largest remaining wild horse heard, has led to litigation.
In August 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned a decision by the Forest Service to cut by 23,000 acres the area available to wild horses, in a victory RTF shared with other advocates. After years of managing the area for wild horses and scores of public meetings, the agency in 2013 claimed that its use for wild horses had been an administrative mistake.
Viewing the roundup
A limited number of members of the public will be able to view the helicopter roundup on a first-come, first-served basis. They must call (530) 233-8738 to make a reservation, then arrive at 225 W. Eighth St. in Alturas, Calif., by 6 a.m. Forest personel will guide them to the parking location. Tours of the sorting facility will be offered after daily roundup operations.