The Bureau of Land Management on Sunday completed its removal of all of the wild horses from the Seaman and White River Herd Areas south of Ely, Nev.
In 2008, BLM decided to allow no wild horses on the two Herd Areas, which total 475,100 acres, “based on analysis of habitat suitability and monitoring data which indicates insufficient forage and water is available to maintain healthy wild horses and rangelands over the long-term,” according to planning documents.
A total of 420 wild horses were removed (202 mares, 170 studs and 48 foals). Eleven horses died, one from suffering a broken neck during the roundup. The others were put down for “pre-existing conditions” that included missing eyes and club feet, according to BLM.
Entering the roundup, BLM had estimated the population of wild horses to be 526 not counting foals born this year.
BLM declined to consider removing private livestock from the Herd Areas: “Changes to livestock grazing cannot be made through a wild horse gather decision, and are only possible if BLM first revises the land-use plans to re-allocate livestock forage to wild horses and to eliminate or reduce livestock grazing,” the agency wrote in its 2018 Environmental Assessment, adding that livestock can be confined to specific pastures and graze during specific times of the year to minimize impacts to vegetation.
The BLM has allocated 31,376 Animal Unit Months to cattle and sheep grazing on allotments that overlap the Herd Areas (one AUM is defined as a month’s worth of forage for one cow-calf pair, one horse or five sheep). Actual use from 2008-18 averaged 11,622 AUMs.
BLM states that the roundup is needed to “improve watershed health, protect wild horse health, and make significant progress towards achieving Mojave-Southern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council Standards for Rangeland Health,” according to a press release.
According to BLM planning documents, there are four springs on the southern portion of the Seaman Herd Area that provide “extremely limited water,” with three often going dry during the summer, causing wild horses to travel about seven miles outside the Herd Area in search of water.
Water in the White River Herd Area includes five springs, with three that often go dry in the summer, causing horses to roam about three miles outside the Herd Area looking for water. Water is also available for use by wild horses when livestock operators pump three stock-water wells from November through May.
Captured horses will be transported to the Ridgecrest Regional Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Ridgecrest, Calif., before being offered for adoption or sale.
The roundup was suspended for more than a month when the remaining wild horses moved into heavy pinyon-juniper in higher elevations. It ran Nov. 12-20 and Jan. 6-12.