The Bureau of Land Management plans to begin a 223-horse helicopter roundup on the Desatoya Herd Management Area, located about 77 miles east of Fallon, Nev., on or around Sunday, Jan. 16.
The BLM plans to remove 150 “excess” wild horses from their home range and release 43 mares treated with fertility control and 30 stallions.
“By balancing herd size with what the land can support, the (BLM) aims to address resources issues related to drought and protect habitat for other wildlife species such as sage grouse, pronghorn antelope and mule deer. Removing excess animals will enable significant progress toward achieving the Standards for Rangeland Health,” the agency said in a press release.
The agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” for the 161,700-acre Desatoya Herd Management Area is 127-180 wild horses. The BLM estimates the population of wild horses there at 277 wild horses, including foals born in 2021.
By comparison, BLM allows the grazing of privately owned livestock, sheep and horses of up to 9,133 Animal Unit Months on four allotments overlapping the Herd Management Area, or the annual equivalent of 761 cow-calf pairs. An AUM is defined as the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.
The actual use for livestock grazing is lower, at 6,631 AUM, the annual equivalent of 553 cow-calf pairs, according to BLM planning documents. However, the document fails to say what period of time that level of use covers.
RTF strongly supports the use of fertility control to halt future roundups. However, BLM plans to treat mares with the fertility control vaccine GonaCon. 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.
BLM last removed wild horses from the Desatoya Herd Management Area in 2019: 431 wild horses were captured and one killed during a helicopter roundup. Twenty-five wild horses were released, including 10 mares treated with fertility control.
Viewing the roundup
Members of the public who wish view roundup operations must call the gather hotline daily no later than 5 p.m. at (775) 885-6101 to RSVP. COVID-19 rules will include mask-wearing and social distancing. Those who attend are asked to bring hand sanitizer. Those who are sick or have been exposed to someone ill or with COVID-19 during the prior 14 days should not attend.