The Bureau of Land Management calls them “gathers”; others call them “roundups.”
They are a blunt instrument wielded as part of costly and inhumane system of government wild-horse management. By any name, roundups typically involve the permanent removal of wild horses and burros from their home ranges. Roundups are especially dangerous when conducted using helicopters that drive fleeing wild horses over long distances, often over rough terrain. Once trapped in pens, panicked family bands and herds are torn apart — with even the foals taken from mares — as government contractors separate them by gender and age.
The captured wild horses then face an uncertain future: A portion considered less adoptable, because of their older age, may be released back onto the range, with the mares treated with fertility control. Those are the lucky ones. Most of the captured will be put up for adoption, with the vast majority passed over before being trucked away to join tens of thousands in government holding facilities. Through failed or unscrupulous adoptions or sales, an unknown number of wild horses fall into the hands of kill buyers: The ultimate betrayal of America’s promise to fully protect its iconic free-roaming wild horses and burros.
News and Actions Regarding Wild Horse and Burro Roundups
What exactly is a wild horse roundup?
Using low-flying helicopters to stampede and round up wild horses, the federal government removes them by the thousands from public lands in the West each year.
Once removed, the horses are warehoused in holding facilities. The BLM now stockpiles nearly 48,000 wild horses and burros in government holding facilities and fewer than 48,000 wild horses and 11,000 burros remain free on the range.
The approach is costly, both to the taxpayers and to the horses, who lose their freedom and families, and sometimes their lives. This fiscal year, the cost of the federal wild horse program is projected to be $80 million. Taxpayers are on the hook for $153,905 every day just to feed the stockpiled horses. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the estimated $500 million annual cost to American taxpayers for subsidizing the welfare ranching system that is driving wild horses from the range in the first place!
There is no question about the endgame of this unsustainable and irrational approach to wild horse management: to manufacture a crisis in which slaughter becomes the only possible economic solution.
Americans overwhelmingly oppose horse slaughter, and we don’t believe that the mass killing of our national icons is the solution to the government’s mismanagement woes.
The agency denies slaughter is the goal. But it’s already happened and was confirmed by a recent Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation for the BLM’s sale of over 1,700 wild of captured mustangs to a known kill buyer, Tom Davis.
How can the BLM guarantee that no federally protected wild horses will ever again end up being brutally slaughtered when it continues to sell wild horses for as little as $10 a piece? It can’t.
This is a solvable issue. Proven alternatives like fertility control stop the bloodshed, save us money and keep wild horses where they belong: On the range. This is the course our government should be pursuing for its wild horse program. It’s a no-brainer.
Wild horses are making their last stand in the American West. Failure is not an option.
In-Field Humane Observers: Watchdogs for Roundups
Return to Freedom staff and volunteers attend as many government roundups of wild horses and burros as possible in keeping with RTF’s efforts to increase government transparency and accountability. Having humane observers on the range enables RTF to press government agencies and contractors to fully comply with care and handling standards under the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program.
Documenting roundups also provides a key way to help policymakers and the public understand how tax dollars are often being misused to fund an inhumane, costly and ineffective system of removing wild horses and burros from the range and placing them in off-range facilities when on-range management alternatives exist.