Starting on or around Friday, the Bureau of Land Management plans to begin an 88-horse helicopter roundup on the Fox and Lake Range Herd Management Area, located about 60 miles north of Reno, Nev. The BLM plans to permanently remove about 20 wild horses from the range, releasing the rest including about 40 mares treated with the fertility control vaccine GonaCon, according to a press release.
While RTF supports the use of safe, proven and humane fertility control to slow (not stop) population growth to halt roundups, it does have concerns about GonaCon. Because GonaCon affects the hormone system, it may cause behavioral changes that would alter herd dynamics. Because it has not been used and researched for as long as PZP vaccines have, RTF believes more studies are needed to ensure that GonaCon meets the parameters of ethical and thoughtful wildlife fertility control.
The Fox and Lake Range Herd Management Area is made up of 176,692 acres of BLM-managed land as well as 5,032 acres of private and other public lands. The agency-set “Appropriate Management Level”for the HMA is 122-204 wild horses, or as few as one horse for every 1,448 acres.
The BLM estimates the current population on the HMA already falls within its population target range: 154 wild horses, including foals born this year.
The agency says that the purpose of the gather is to “prevent undue or unnecessary degradation of the public lands associated with excess wild horses (and) to restore a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationship on public lands …. By balancing herd size with what the land can support, the (BLM) aims to address resources issues related to drought and past fire damage and protect habitat for other wildlife species such as sage grouse, pronghorn antelope and mule deer.”
As of 2017, BLM permitted livestock grazing on two allotments on the HMA. The combined permitted use was 5,796 animal unit months (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) on the two allotments, though ranchers with grazing permits there have voluntarily reduced their numbers in recent years and did not graze on the affected area from 2013-16, according to the agency.
In November 2017, BLM captured and removed 189 wild horses from the Fox and Lake Range Herd Management Area following the the Tohakum 2 wildfire, which burned about 27,000 acres of the HMA before being brought under control in September of that year. According to BLM, a number of wild horses had remained in the burned area, which contains two water sources. Their grazing would “hinder the success of fire rehabilitation efforts” and encourage the spread of invasive weeds, the agency said.
Wild horses removed from the range will be transported to the Palomino Valley Center Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals near Reno, NV, where they will be readied for adoption or sale.
To view BLM’s planning documents, click here. Please note: BLM’s website remained down as a Monday afternoon.
Viewing the roundup
Once gather operations have started, those wanting to view gather operations must call the gather hotline the night before you wish to observe gather operations no later than 5:30 p.m. at (775) 861-6700 to RSVP. It is strongly advised to RSVP due to potential last-minute trap site moves, according to the press release.