Beaty Butte Roundup Comes To An End

Beatty Butte Roundup Report 11/23/15

beauty butte trap 11-5-15A few Return to Freedom staff and volunteers were able to trek up to Beaty’s Butte Herd Management Area 11/4/15- 11/7/15 and 11/22/15 to bear witness to the roundup, capture and permanent removal of 1070 wild horses from their home range. Courtesy of RTF donors, veteran wild horse range documentarian, Laura Leigh joined us and also returned to witness the final day of this controversial and tragic roundup, Sunday November 22, 2015.

Before we left to Beatty’s Butte, because of concern that Oregon has consistently maintained strict controls over wild horse management, public viewing and access resulting in a lack of transparency,  RTF and coalition partners AWHPC, communicated concern to the BLM regarding our First Amendment rights to be able to view the roundup from a reasonable vantage point, the handling of the horses throughout the process, without obstruction.

For the most part we were accommodated, BLM staff were professional and approachable. For some witnessing wild horses running for their lives just a few feet under the predatorial wings of a helicopter, is acceptable, a family outing, a picnic. For others, it is like surgery without anesthesia.


Deeply bonded wild horse families and young stallions run for the very last time on the open range that has been their home. As soon as they head into the burlap bordered funnel into the trap, life as they knew it is over. Immediately they are sorted by gender and age and scattered to the winds. For most wild horse families they say their final goodbyes through steel bars.

Most will stare at steel fencing, some will grace pastures, and many will slip into the void through a sale yard, often suffering all along the way.


On November 4th 2015, The Bureau of Land Management began roundup operations at the Beaty Butte Herd Management Area (HMA). The BLM was targeting 1500 wild horses, with the possibility of returning 100 horses back to the range and the permanent removal of 1400 wild horses.  BLM’s goal population is 100-250 wild horses within this HMA.

The Beatty’s Butte HMA, in southern Oregon, is just next to Hart Mountain Fish and Wildlife Refuge, where the FWS removed all wild horses in 1998. The horses in this region arrived with early homesteaders who were either sheep or cattle ranchers. Some bred cavalry horses and there is a generous mix of draft, Spanish, Morgan and standardbred horse breeds throughout the region.

Just next door to Hart Mountain in Southern Oregon’s high desert, the Beaty’s Butte Herd Management Area (HMA), rolls out a landscape rich with lava rock, sediment and history of Peter French and the livestock barons of the 1800s.

The HMA encompasses 437,120 acres with almost 400,00 acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM and local ranchers have fixated on an arbitrary Appropriated Management Level (AML) of between 100-250 wild horses. In contrast, the BLM authorizes ranchers to graze the equivalent of 1,700 cow/calf pairs there per year.

The BLM manages 15.7 million acres of land in the state of Oregon with wild horses and burros present on less than 19% (1/5), which is also grazed by livestock . Nationally, Livestock outnumber wild horses and burros on average by 37:1. In Oregon, BLM estimates 4327 wild horses and 49 burros (Source: BLM, pre-Beaty Butte roundup), exist on the 2.7 million acres of public lands. In contrast, resources are allocated for nearly 87, 000 privately owned livestock on 14 million acres of BLM land in the state.

Certainly the small number of wild horses in the state of Oregon, can be managed on the range with the use of proven safe, humane and reversible fertility control. This would save millions of dollars a year in costs associated with roundups, removals, holding costs and veterinary and other direct and indirect fees.


Beatty Butte Roundup Reporting
BLM’s Final Roundup Numbers and Daily Reports:
Total horses captured: 1070
Mares: 240
Stallions: 394
Deaths: 16, Euthanasia record at Beaty roundup 2015: All 16 deaths were documented by BLM as acute/sudden and/or chronic/pre-existing
Horses shipped to holding facilities: 1069
Horses released back to the range: 1, because he escaped


  • Limited access to observe both mares and stallions in temporary holding trap
  • Some horses were gathered before public viewing commenced or after public viewing ended
  • Large numbers of horses left in small temporary holding pens at capture site, over night. Mostly exceeding 100 horses from different bands in a confined space
  • Helicopter work handled with expertise but still, from an animal welfare perspective, way too low driving exhausted and fearful horses practically on their back.
Barbed wire and broken photo: Laura Leigh

Barbed wire and broken fence used at trap site photo: Laura Leigh

At the temporary holding at the capture site, (that was used as the trap location for the first two days), is that the wings of the trap were busted and old barbed wire fencing. As the current version of the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) has not been made available we are unclear whether this is a violation. We do know that according to a court order gained by Wild Horse Education (myself) at the Owyhee Complex Roundup federal district court Judge Miranda Du ruled such conduct as inappropriate. We had been assured that we would no longer see barbed wire used as part of the funnel and that if horses were to be run anywhere near it that it would be appropriately flagged.

In Closing

Lack of transparency and disclosure, as a whole has become less common at most BLM roundups. However, it has been our experience that Oregon in particular is a bit “behind the curve” on transparency and observation for the American taxpayers who fund the program.

Return to Freedom and Wild Horse Education will follow up on the use of barbed wire for funnel or any area where the horses will be pressured.

Beatty Butte 2015 Running for their lives

Beatty Butte 2015: Running for their lives

Beatty Butte- heading into the trap

Beatty Butte: heading into the trap

A young straggler

A young straggler

Sorted by gender at trap site

Sorted by gender at trap site

Temporary holding at capture site. Some wait overnight to be shipped

Temporary holding at capture site. Some wait overnight to be shipped

limited public viewing of horses in holding pen at capture site

Limited public viewing of horses in holding pen at capture site

Day after their capture-Exhausted and confused Mares and foals at BLM's holding facility - Palomino Valley

Day after their capture-Exhausted and confused Mares and foals at BLM’s holding facility – Palomino Valley

Note: In 1998 the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) removed all wild horses on the FWS Hart Mountain Refuge. FWS is not under a federal mandate like the BLM,to manage wild horses, Hart Mountain FWS Refuge was established in 1936 to protect the imperiled American pronghorn. In 1991, they removed all cattle and in 1998, a total removal of 279 wild horses were removed. Those horses, are the same horses as those on neighboring BLM managed ranges like Beaty Butte. Unfortunately, BLM got away with having FWS round up the horses, which were unbranded and easily shipped to auctions, slaughter feedlots and used as rodeo stock before sold for slaughter. Some of the last horses from Hart Mounain found their way to Return to Freedom’s Wild Horse Sanctuary in California- natural family bands intact — where they live today with a few additions.