The Bureau of Land Management resumed its planned complete removal of all horses on the Seaman and White River Herd Areas south of Ely, Nev., on Monday with the capture of 17 studs and 11 mares.
That brings the total number of horses removed from their home range to 322.
The roundup was suspended on Nov. 21 when the remaining wild horses moved into heavy pinyon-juniper in higher elevations. BLM estimated about 150 wild horses remained on the Herd Areas, and that the helicopter roundup should last about six days. No injuries were reported on Monday.
A total of 294 wild horses were captured and nine killed over eight days in November, according to BLM. Of the deaths, one horse suffered a broken neck during the roundup. The others were put down for “pre-existing conditions” ranging from missing eyes to club feet.
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.
The Herd Area is currently home to a BLM-estimated 526 wild horses, not counting foals born this year, which will be removed in a helicopter roundup lasting about two weeks.
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.
Viewing the roundup
BLM will escort members of the public to observation sites located on public lands. Those who wish to observe the roundup should call (775) 861-6700 at least one day in advance to receive specific instructions on meeting locations and times. The hotline will be updated each day by 7 p.m. Observers must provide their own transportation. BLM recommends footwear and clothing suitable for harsh field conditions and a four-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle.