Barren Valley (Ore.) update: BLM captures 100 wild horses, kills 3

/ 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 Thursday captured 100 wild horses on the second day of a 1,900-horse “emergency” helicopter roundup on the Barren Valley Complex, located in southeast Oregon’s Malheur and Harney Counties. A total of 198 wild horses have been captured since the roundup began.

Three wild horses, a 4-year-old mare, a 3-year old stallion and a 2-year-old stallion, were killed on Thursday, according to BLM, all of them euthanized for “pre-existing condition/physical defect of blindness/eye abnormality.” That brings to five the number of deaths since the roundup began, all for what BLM says were pre-existing conditions.

The two wild horses euthanized on Wednesday were a 15-year-old stallion for “blindness/hematoma” and a 7-year-old mare with “physical defect of fractured fetlock,” according to BLM.

BLM’s guidance for euthanasia policy defines as one reason for a horse to be put down, “Permanent blindness; particularly double eye blindness or single eye blindness that involves an injury or condition that would require treatment or single eye blindness to which the animal is not well adjusted.”

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.

Captured wild horses thus far have had body scores of 2 (very thin) to 5 (moderate) on a 9-point scale, according to BLM’s gather report.

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. It 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 call for 100 of the 1,900 wild horses captured to be returned to the range “when conditions allow.”

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.

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.

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 or 541-523-1407.