Barren Valley (Ore.) roundup begins with 98 wild horses captured, 2 killed

/ In The News, News, Roundups

Wild horses are shown on the Coyote Lake / Alvord Tule Springs Herd Management Area, part of the Barren Valley Complex, in this undated BLM photo.

The Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday captured 98 wild horses on the first day of a 1,900-horse “emergency” helicopter roundup on the Barren Valley Complex, located in southeast Oregon’s Malheur and Harney Counties.

Two wild horses were euthanized, but BLM’s gather report included no reason as to why they were put down. Contacted directly, BLM said only that the horses suffered from “chronic pre-existing conditions.”

UPDATE: BLM now says one of the two euthanized horses was blind and that the other had a leg/fetlock injury.

BLM’s stated reason for the roundup is that the complex, made up of the Coyote Lake/Alvord-Tule Springs, Sheepshead/Heath Creek and Sand Springs Herd Management Areas, is facing “extreme drought conditions.” and that “a large percentage of the horses are emaciated and dehydrated,” according to a press release.

Plans call for 100 of the 1,900 wild horses captured to be returned to the range “when conditions allow.” Wild horses removed from their home range will be transported to BLM’s Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Bruneau, Idaho, and Reno, Nev.

BLM’s plans do not include treating then releasing mares with safe, proven and humane fertility control. Return to Freedom strongly supports the use of fertility control to halt future roundups.

The three Herd Management Areas managed together as the Barren Valley Complex totaling 956,424 acres. Their combined agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” is 459-892 wild horses.

By comparison, BLM allocates up to 39,874 Animal Unit Months to private livestock grazing on allotments that overlap the complex, the equivalent of 3,323 cow-calf pairs annually (one Animal Unit Month is the equivalent of forage needed for one month by one cow-calf pair, one horse or five sheep). Actual livestock use from 2015-2020 averaged 25,550 AUM, according to planning documents.

The roundup is part of a plan to remove 6,000 additional wild horses from the range because of drought conditions by the end of September.

RTF believes that we are in this tragic position because of the BLM’s failure to implement solutions that have been available for over 20 years For nearly 50 years, these horses have had to suffer this management program and the Americans who love them suffer with them.

This is even more tragic because other solutions exist now. The agency has resisted creating an infrastructure and a culture that could have made a sustainable and effective fertility control program possible. It has rounded up horses year after year while waiting for longer-acting vaccines instead of using the safe, proven and humane fertility control that’s available right now. These sensitive habitats are vulnerable to drought and, knowing this, a national land management agency tasked with the preservation and protection of our wild horses should have been prepared long ago and in a much better position today.

To read BLM’s planning documents, click here.

Click here for BLM’s tentative roundup calendar.

Viewing the roundup

BLM is allowing up to 15 people per day “when possible”on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information regarding viewing, contact Larisa Bogardus at lbogardus@blm.gov or 541-523-1407.

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