Devils Garden update: 713 wild horses captured, 11th killed; adoption / sale event planned

/ Featured, In The News, News, Roundups

Wild horses flee from a contractor’s helicopter during a 2016 roundup at Devils Garden Wild Horse Territory. RTF file photo by Steve Paige.

Help RTF help the Devils Garden wild horses. Click here:

The U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday captured 47 more wild horses during the ongoing helicopter roundup at the Devils Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory in Northern California, bringing the total captured to 713.

One wild horse was “euthanized for a preexisting chronic condition,” according to the Forest Service.

Eleven have died during the monthlong roundup. The Forest Service has provided little detail, except that most been put down for what the agency says were preexisting conditions, one foal “died in holding,” and an adult wild horse died as a result of an injury suffered in the holding corrals.

In addition, one foal has been born in the holding corrals.

The Forest Service has also announced that on Nov. 16-17 it will hold an adoption / restricted sale event for wild horses captured during the ongoing roundup (see below for more information).

The agency plans to capture and remove 1,000 wild horses from Devils Garden, part of Modoc National Forest near Alturas, Calif.

Of those, an estimated 300 wild horses ages 10-older will be sold with some limitations for 60 days after being made ready for placement. Those limitations include prohibiting the purchase of wild horses for human consumption as well as providing appropriate transportation and “healthy accommodations.”

Beginning as soon as Jan. 10, older wild horses not purchased during that period will be sold without limitation, for as little as $1, putting them in danger of falling into the hands of kill buyers who will transport the animals to Canada or Mexico for slaughter.

The Forest Service has sought to exploit a sort of loophole in restrictions the U,S. Congress placed on the sale of wild horses in its 2018 budget. Congress barred unrestricted sale of wild horses by the Bureau of Land Management but did not do so for the Forest Service.

Return to Freedom has joined a coalition of national and local advocates that filed a lawsuit to stop a planned unrestricted sale of wild horses from Devils Garden, which would place hundreds on animals in jeopardy of being sold to slaughter. The case is pending.

The Forest Service’s plans have drawn opposition from wild horse and animal welfare advocates, including Return to Freedom, and demands from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to explain how the Forest Service intends to keep captured wild horses from going to slaughter against the wishes of Congress and the public.

The remaining 700 or so younger horses, ages 9-younger, will be transported to Bureau of Land Management holding corrals in Susanville, Calif., where they will be offered for adoption over the next year.

Speaking before the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board last week, a Forest Service official said that the agency had not made arrangements for the younger horses to be moved to a long-term BLM pasture after the year ends, meaning that they too could be vulnerable to sale to kill buyers.

The Forest Service says it is conducting the roundup “to help address impacts on aquatic resources, wildlife, grazing and traditional cultural practices.”

“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.

The 232,520-acre Devils Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory has an agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” of 206-402 wild horses — as few as one horse for every 1,129 acres. The Forest Service estimates there are about 3,900 wild horses at Devils Garden.

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.

To view planning documents, click here.

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 personnel will guide them to the parking location. Tours of the sorting facility will be offered after daily roundup operations.

Adoption / sale event

The Forest Service has announced plans to hold a wild horse adoption and sale event on Nov. 16-17. The event will run from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on both days.

Horses ages 10-older will first be available to adopters, based on the order in which they’ve applied, then to buyers for restricted sale, at the Double Devil Corrals at Modoc National Forest.

Restrictions include not purchasing wild horses for slaughter and ability to provide an adequate home and transportation.

The Forest Service will retain the title on adopted wild horses for one year, meaning that horses can be returned during that time. Those that buy wild horses will receive the title immediately.

As of Wednesday, more than 200 older wild horses had been captured, including pregnant mares, according to the Forest Service.

Older mares with foals are being transported to the BLM’s Litchfield corrals in Susanville, where they will be offered for adoption. The Forest Service plans to geld older stallions on or around Nov. 12, unless adopters or buyers make arrangements to take intact mature stallions.

For more information, including adoption and sale forms and links to photos of captured wild horses, see

You Can Help

Return to Freedom is already making preparations for the rescue of the older horses. Should the U.S. Forest Service go forward with their disastrous plan to lift all restrictions on sales of an estimated 300 wild horses ages 10-older from Devils Garden Wild Horse Territory, this puts them in jeopardy of being purchased by kill buyers.

To donate to Return to Freedom’s Wild Horse Defense Fund for the Devils Garden response effort:

Please click here if you can provide a good home to two or more wild horses, especially those ages 10-older, offer transportation for rescued horses, or would like to donate to support the rescue effort.

Take Action

Please click here to send a message to U.S. Forest Service Officials opposing the unrestricted sale of wild horses.

* Please click here to send a letter to your members of Congress urging them to oppose the Bureau of Land Management sale policy, which allows any buyer to purchase up to 24 wild horses with no waiting period, no oversight and no questions asked.

* Please keep calling U. S. Senators on the Conference Committee and urge them to continue standing up for wild horses and burros and opposing slaughter. Click here for suggested talking points and a list of phone numbers.