BLM plans removal of 5,925 wild horses, dangerous sterilization surgeries

A BLM’s contractor’s helicopter pursues wild horses during an October 2017 roundup in Wyoming’s Checkerboard region. RTF file photo by Steve Paige.

The Bureau of Land Management has released an updated roundup schedule that shows the removal of 5,925 wild horses between now and October – including 2,670 from Wyoming’s Red Desert – along with a troubling plan to revive dangerous sterilization research.

The planned roundups would bring the total number of wild horses and burros removed from their home ranges to 10,306 this fiscal year – more than twice the number removed in any of the past five years.

The Red Desert complex roundup is tentatively set to begin on Aug. 6 because BLM says wild horses are infringing on greater sage-grouse and big game habitat. The helicopter roundup will include five Herd Management Areas (HMAs): Crooks Mountain, Green Mountain, Stewart Creek, Lost Creek and Antelope Hills.

Those five HMAs total about 753,000 acres of public and private land, yet BLM has set the “Appropriate Management Level” there at 480-724 wild horses — or no more than one wild horse for every 1,040 acres.

One smaller roundup is perhaps even more troubling: BLM has proposed doing spay research on mares captured during a planned October roundup at the Warm Springs HMA in Oregon. BLM aims to determine the feasibility of performing ovariectomies via colpotomy.

This is a rare procedure which removes the ovaries by crushing and pulling them out with a looped-chain medical instrument called an ecraseur. This procedure opens the mares up to: serious risk from infection; evisceration (should intestines come through the incision); and hemorrhaging.

There is a high frequency of post-operative complications affiliated with ovariectomy via colpotomy, some of which can be life-threatening. Most domestic horses upon which this surgery is performed are hospitalized for 3 to 7 days and quite carefully monitored post-operatively for signs of hemorrhage.

BLM has gone down this road before: As recently as 2016, BLM planned sterilization research on 225 mares, at least 100 of which were pregnant, only to drop the plan after a public outcry and lawsuits filed, or threatened, by advocacy organizations.

BLM has included sterilization surgeries as a component of all four management options that it presented in a recent report to Congress.

Return to Freedom strongly opposes costly, unproven sterilization surgeries for wild horses and burros, especially mares and jennies, which both threaten the lives of individual animals and the diversity and health of entire herds. RTF instead supports the use of safe, proven fertility control vaccines as one component of a move to humane, sustainable management of wild horses and burros on the range.

To date, 4,321 wild horses and burros have been removed from BLM-managed public lands this fiscal year, as well as another 127 from U.S. Forest Service land that were recently removed from the Cold Creek area of Nevada, near Las Vegas.

As of March 1, the BLM estimated that 81,951 wild horses and burros were living on agency-controlled lands in 10 states. Another 45,295 were living in off-range facilities: 35,710 on leased pastures and 8,955 in corrals, as of this month, according to BLM.

Take Action

Please call (202) 225-3121 today. Tell your representative that you:

  • Oppose any amendment to the FY19 Interior Appropriations bill allowing BLM to kill wild horses and burros;
  • Oppose any amendment allowing for the sterilization of wild horses and burros because it is dangerous, unproven, costly and could be devastating to the future of these federally protected animals;
  • Support the use of safe, proven fertility control vaccines for wild horses and burros;
  • Support the SAFE Act (H.R. 113) to ban slaughter and the transportation of horses for slaughter;
  • Support the Horse Transportation Safety Act (H.R. 4040) to ban hauling horses on double-deck trailers under all circumstances.

Tell your senators that you:

  • Oppose any amendment to the FY19 Interior Appropriations bill allowing BLM to kill wild horses and burros;
  • Oppose any amendment allowing for the sterilization of wild horses and burros because it is dangerous, unproven, costly and could be devastating to the future of these federally protected animals;
  • Support the use of safe, proven fertility control vaccines for wild horses and burros;
  • Support the anti-horse slaughter language in the FY19 Agriculture Appropriations bill;
  • Support the SAFE Act (S. 1706) to ban slaughter and the transportation of horses for slaughter

Sign RTF’s Wild on the Range petition, calling for humane management solutions.

Donate to RTF’s Wild Horse Defense Fund, which fuels our advocacy, lobbying and selective litigation efforts.

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