The Bureau of Land Management on Friday ended an “emergency” helicopter roundup continued on the Barren Valley Complex, located in southeast Oregon’s Malheur and Harney Counties, with a total of 1,672 wild horses captured and 27 killed.
The BLM captured one mare on Thursday before being rained out, then flew on Friday but captured no wild horses, according to BLM’s gather report.
Of the wild horses killed, all but one was put down for what BLM has said were pre-existing conditions like low body condition scores, blindness and club foot. On Oct. 29, a 6-year-old mare died of a broken neck after running into a panel in a temporary corral, according to the report.
On Sept. 8, the BLM set out to remove 1,900 wild horses from 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.
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. The agency estimated the population of wild horses on the complex in June at about 2,500 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.
Plans originally called for 100 of 1,900 captured wild horses to be returned to the range “when conditions allow.”
Because BLM removed fewer wild horses than planned, a spokesperson now says that the agency plan is to maintain low AML for Sand Springs Herd Management, then count the number of wild horses that remain in the spring. If the number is below AML, the agency will return enough horses to meet low AML of 100. Any mares that are returned will be given fertility control before release, and mares still on the range will be darted with fertility control, according to BLM.
Wild horses removed from their home range were to be transported to BLM’s Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Bruneau, Idaho, and Reno, Nev.
The roundup was part of a plan to remove 6,000 additional wild horses from the range over what had been planned for the year because of drought conditions.
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.