Devil’s Garden (Calif.) update: Number of wild horses captured reaches 256

/ In The News, News, Roundups

Wild horses stand in temporary holding pens after being captured during a 2016 helicopter roundup at Devils Garden Wild Horse Territory. RTF file photo.

With the capture of five studs, four mares and foal on Sunday, the U.S. Forest Service is more than halfway to its goal of removing another 500 wild horses from the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory in Northen California.

Through Sunday, 256 wild horses from California’s last large wild horse herd — 122 mares, 104 studs and 40 foals — had been captured and removed from their home range on 268,750-acre Devil’s Garden, which is located in Modoc National Forest near Alturas, Calif. There have been no deaths so far, according to the USFS.

The roundup was paused on Monday due to wet weather.

The agency’s stated reason for removing wild horses: “Reducing the population will allow range and riparian ecological conditions to recover, while also supporting wild horse herd health by reducing competition for limited food, water and habitat.”

USFS estimates that there are now 1,802 wild horses on Devil’s Garden. The agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” is 206-402 horses — or as low as one horse for every 1,305 acres.

By comparison, USFS permits 26,880 Animal Unit Months of private grazing on the wild horse territory. One Animal Unit Month is defined as a month’s forage for one horse, one cow / calf pair or five sheep. Actual livestock use varied between 63-73% of the permitted maximum from 2006-12, according to USFS planning documents.

USFS’s does not plan to treat and release any mares with safe, proven and humane fertility control vaccines, which would curb reproduction and calls for future roundups.

About 300 of the wild horses that USFS plans to capture will be kept at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals in Alturas, where they will be offered for adoption or sale. The balance will be sent to the Bureau of Land Management’s Litchfield Corrals near Susanville, Calif.

The roundup follows another in fall 2018 during which 932 wild horses were captured and removed from Devil’s Garden.

Return to Freedom and other advocates sued USFS after the agency announced unprecedented plans just before the 2018 roundup to sell older wild horses captured during without protections against slaughter. That case is ongoing. In May, U.S. District Judge James Donato ordered advocates and USFS to engage in settlement talks.

A stipulated prohibition remained in place as the suit progressed, barring the agency from selling the horses without restriction. During that time, USFS was able to adopt or sell the remaining older wild horses, which were kept in corrals at Modoc National Forest, with restrictions in place. That included a dozen horses recently moved to RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary.

To read USFS’s planning documents, click here.

Public viewing

USFS will allow a limited number of members of the public to view the roundup on a first-come, first-served basis. To reserve a place, call (530) 233-8738. Viewers must arrive by 7 a.m. on their schedule day at 225 W. Eighth St. in Alturas to follow forest personnel to a parking location, then hike to a viewing location where they will remain on site until that day’s operation is complete.

Adoptions / sales

The Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals are open to tours on Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 a.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m. through the duration of the roundup. No start date has been announced for adoptions or sales, and USFS is not yet allowing the public to select horses, but applications and more information are available by clicking here.

Donate to RTF’s Wild Horse Defense Fund