On or about Jan. 6, the Bureau of Land Management will begin a helicopter roundup of up to 1,131 wild horses from the Eagle Complex, near Pioche, Nev., which includes the Chokecherry, Eagle, and Mt. Elinor Herd Management Areas.
BLM plans to treat “up to” 50 captured mares with the fertility control vaccine GonaCon and release them back onto the Eagle HMA.
Return to Freedom supports the use of the fertility control vaccines PZP and PZP-22 to slow reproduction and reduce calls for roundups. Because GonaCon interrupts the hormone cascade, it may cause other behavioral changes that would affect herd dynamics. As such, RTF would like to see more studies to ensure that GonaCon meets the parameters of ethical and thoughtful wildlife fertility control.
According to BLM, the purpose of the roundup is to “prevent undue or unnecessary degradation of the public lands associated with excess wild horses.”
BLM estimates the current population of horses for the Eagle Complex at 1,415 wild horses, including 2020 foals. The agency-set Appropriate Management Level for the 743,042-acre complex is 139-265 wild horses or as low as one horse for every 5,346 acres.
By comparison, six cattle and sheep grazing allotments have at least 37% of their acreage overlapping the Eagle HMA. The 10-year average annual use on those allotments was 28,732 Animal Unit Months, according to BLM planning documents. One Animal Unit Month is a month’s forage for one horse, one cow / calf pair or five sheep.
In February 2020, a roundup on the complex ended with 1,704 wild horses captured and 23 dead. Fifty mares treated with GonaCon and a similar number of studs were to be released.
In 2018, BLM removed 303 wild horses from the Eagle HMA in an emergency roundup that the agency said was conducted due to lack of water.
All horses removed during the upcoming roundup are to be transported to the Sutherland Off-Range Corral in Sutherland, Utah; and Palomino Valley Center Wild Horse and Burro Corrals, in Sparks, Nev., where they will be checked by a veterinarian and readied for adoption or sale.
Viewing the roundup
The BLM will escort the public to gather observation sites located on public lands starting on or about Jan. 7, weather and logistics permitting. Once the roundup is underway, those who wish to view operations must call the gather hotline nightly at (775) 861-6700 to receive specific instructions on each days’ meeting location and time.