The Bureau of Land Management has captured 229 wild horses over the first seven days of a 947-horse helicopter roundup on the Owyhee Complex in Humboldt and Elko Counties in Nevada, from Oct. 11-17.
A total of five wild horses have been put down: a yearling cremello mare due to “poor body condition: starvation/malnourished and blindness,” a 2-month-old foal due to “poor body condition: starvation/malnourished,” a 2-year-old black mare due to “hernia: developmental,” a black stud more than 20 years old for “no teeth / very old age,” and a yearling sorrel mare due to “chronic injury (fractured / broken ankle).”
The agency plans to permanently remove 615 wild horses from their home range. Of the horses re-released, BLM plans to treat up to 185 mares with the safe, proven and humane fertility control vaccine PZP.
“The purpose of the gather is to prevent undue or unnecessary degradation of the public lands associated with excess wild horses, to restore a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationship on public lands…,” BLM wrote in a press release. “By balancing herd size with what the land can support, the (field office) aims to address resources issues related to drought and past fire damage and protect habitat for other wildlife species such as sage grouse, pronghorn antelope and mule deer.”
The BLM estimates the current population of the complex is 1,188 wild horses, including foals this year, based on a May 20 flight over the complex.
The Owyhee Complex is made up of the Little Humboldt, Little Owyhee, Owyhee, Rock Creek and Snowstorm Mountains Herd Management Areas. The total agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” for the 1.055 million-acre complex is 621-999 wild horses.
By comparison, BLM allows 153,624 Animal Unit Months for seasonal private livestock grazing on allotments that overlap the Owyhee complex by 5-91%, the equivalent of 12,802 cow-calf pairs annually, according to planning documents. One Animal Unit Month is a month’s forage for one horse, one cow / calf pair or five sheep.
Wild horses removed from the range will be shipped to the Sutherland, Utah, Off-Range Wild Horse and Burro Corrals, where they will be prepared for adoption or sale.
BLM last conducted a roundup on the Owyhee Complex in 2018. The “emergency” roundup followed a wildfire that burned 438,000 acres in northeastern Nevada. A total of 1,178 wild horses were captured. Of those, 280 wild horses were returned to the range, including 127 mares treated with fertility control, and 25 wild horses were killed.
In 2016, BLM captured 1,832 wild horses on the complex. Of those, 402 were re-released, including 199 mares treated with fertility control. Eighteen wild horses died.
Viewing the roundup
When traps are located on private property, viewing will be allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while viewing will be available every day when traps are set up on public land, according to the press release. Once gather operations have begun, those wanting to view gather operations must call the gather hotline nightly no later than 5:30 p.m. at (775) 861-6700 to RSVP.