The Bureau of Land Management captured 303 wild horses and three died during an “emergency” helicopter roundup at the Eagle Herd Management Area in Lincoln County, Nevada, which ended on Friday.
A total of 137 mares, 92 studs and 74 foals were captured during the roundup, which began on Sept. 13.
A 4-year-old bay stallion with a tumor on its lip was put down on the first day and a 3-year-old bay stallion with a sway back was put down on the third, according to BLM. On Sept. 20, a 2-year-old bay filly was put down after being blinded by an injury.
During the roundup, advocate Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education captured a bloody photo and video of a mare running that had just given birth, was given birth or was miscarrying. Leigh noted in her accompanying blog post that the same mare had been run repeatedly, including for 40 minutes on the day she took the photo, and that she had previously raised her concerns about the mare but BLM took no action to protect it. Leigh wrote that two foals also disappeared on the same day without an effort by the helicopter pilot to find them.
BLM conducted the roundup because it says there is insufficient water to support the wild horses on the 660,610-acre Eagle HMA. The herd management area typically receives 8-14 inches of rainfall annually, depending on elevation, with water sources limited to a few natural springs and man-made wells, as well as a few small perennial streams
BLM estimatesd the population of the HMA, before the roundup, to be 1,859 wild horses, compared to the agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” of 100-210 — as low as one wild horse for every 6,601 acres.
By comparison, six cattle and sheep grazing allotments have at least 37% of their acreage overlapping the Eagle HMA. The 10-year average annual use on those allotments was 28,732 Animal Unit Months, according to August 2018 BLM planning documents. One Animal Unit Month is a month’s forage for one horse, one cow / calf pair or five sheep.
Wild horses captured by contractor Sun J Livestock, Inc., were transported to the National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley, in Reno, Nevada, before being offered for adoption. Those passed over for adoption are at increased risk of being sold to kill buyers because BLM in May altered its sale policy to allow a single buyer to purchase up to 24 wild horses or burros per day with no waiting period, no oversight and no questions asked.