12 Devil’s Garden horses arrive as USFS begins roundup of 500 more from California herd

Two geldings from a group of 12 Devil’s Garden wild horses after their recent arrival at RTF’s San Luis Obispo, Calif., satellite sanctuary.

On Aug. 20, the U.S. Forest Service delivered 10 geldings and two mares, one of which may be pregnant, to Return to Freedom’s San Luis Obispo, Calif., satellite sanctuary. The horses, ages 9-16, were among the final older wild horses captured by USFS in a helicopter roundup last fall at Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory.

Their safe landing at our sanctuary was made possible by a very special donor determined to rescue the last of the “sale-authority” horses taken from their home range during the 2018 roundup at Devil’s Garden, near Alturas, Calif.

In all, 932 wild horses were captured there last fall. About a third of them, the oldest mares and gelded stallions, spent a long, cold winter in corrals at Modoc National Forest. Thanks to a few very committed advocates, every older horse — those most at risk of slaughter if the USFS was allowed to conduct unrestricted sales — found a home.

Besides the older horses, dozens of younger animals remain available for adoption at the Bureau of Land Management’s Litchfield Corrals near Susanville, Calif., or from adoption centers in Illinois, Colorado and Wyoming

We’re proud to have rescued these 10 California-born geldings and the final two mares in the holding corrals, the inseparable Coco (Chanel) and Sophia (Loren). These horses are remnants from California’s early ranching heritage and have lived in Devil’s Garden for more than 140 years. Conflict with livestock grazing on this high desert plateau continues and every roundup puts these mustangs at risk.

Horses shipped to slaughter endure a cruel journey to Mexico or Canada, during which the terrified animals are deprived of food and water and can suffer severe injuries. Amidst the smells and sounds of the slaughter plant, frightened horses can be difficult to stun and can face repeated blows or even remain conscious while being killed.

No horse should endure that fate, but tens of thousands do each year. RTF is active weekly on Capitol Hill, fighting for legislation which will protect America’s wild and domestic horses and burros from slaughter. The SAFE ACT would not only ensure a permanent ban on slaughter but bar the sale and transportation of horses for slaughter so that America’s mustangs, burros and other equine are not exposed to such senseless brutality over our borders in Canada or Mexico.

Court battle continues

RTF and other plaintiffs remain active in a 2018 federal court case to prevent USFS from taking the unprecedented step of selling older wild horses without any restrictions against slaughter.

RTF and its co-plaintiffs contend that the USFS plan would violate federal laws and agency planning directives and management documents while ignoring the purpose and spirit of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act. Court-ordered settlement talks are ongoing.

As the court case continued, USFS was prevented from selling the wild horses without restriction.

2019 Devil’s Garden roundup begins

The court case is all the more important because another roundup of 500 wild horses is now taking place there. This is in no small part because USFS has failed to invest in an ongoing fertility control program to curb reproduction. As of Tuesday, Sept. 10, 77 wild horses had been captured.

Please consider a donation today to help us keep up the court fight to ensure no member of California’s last large wild horse herd is sent to slaughter and lobby for passage of the federal SAFE Act, to ban slaughter and the transportation of horses for slaughter.

Click to donate: Help us continue the fight in court and Congress to stop horse slaughter

In late August, RTF staff members were on the range in the Southeast portion of the 268,750-acre Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory. The horses were nowhere in sight as many had moved to the northwestern part of the territory. The USFS began capturing horses in that area until lightning ignited a fire. The agency is currently capturing horses from the southeast and will move north once the fire is under control.

Sadly, the recently emptied corrals are filling again with the start of the new roundup. The agency plans to begin selling and adopting out captured horses as soon as October 2019.

While RTF provided a safe home for 12 of the wild horses captured during the 2018 roundup, our ability to help more is limited by funding.

You can help captured wild horses by sponsoring one of the more than 500 rescued mustangs and 51 burros in RTF’s care. Every sponsorship helps us continue to save lives and give back some of the freedom that these horses have lost.

We are doing our very best, but we need your help to keep going. Every life matters.

Sponsor a wild horse or burro

One of eight new burros — four jennies and their foals — shortly after the group’s recent arrival at RTF’s Lompoc, Calif., headquarters sanctuary. Photo by Liz Hines.