Owyhee roundup: First phase nears end with 32 more wild horses captured, Nov. 14, 2016

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Please sign RTF’s anti-roundup petition here. Thank you to those who’ve contributed to the Wild Horse Defense Fund, which makes it possible for RTF to have humane observers on the ground at roundups. Having an active voice has proven valuable for holding BLM and contractors accountable for humane handling of wild horses, pressing for improvements to humane standards, and educating policymakers and the public about how tax dollars are being used.

Approximately 32 wild horses were captured on Sunday during the ongoing Owyhee Complex helicopter roundup in Northern Nevada, according to Laura Leigh, who is acting as a humane observer for Wild Horse Education and Return to Freedom.

An estimated 770 wild horses have been captured since the roundup began on Nov. 2. Four have died.

The Bureau of Land Management has not posted a gather report with exact numbers since last week.

Leigh wrote that as she recorded Monday’s roundup, she reflected on the political uncertainty surrounding wild horses — including the potential for the removal of slaughter protections and euthanizing of wild horses and burros in long-term government facilities.

“A band was one of the last of this operation to be caught, one they tried to get in the operation in 2013 and failed. They were driven a long way,” Leigh wrote. “The stallion, after seeing the trap, essentially lowered his head and even under pressure from the helicopter simply walked toward the trap, his family fleeing before him. As I watched him it struck me that his walk into the trap may really be his walk to his death.

“He is a mature red stallion, not particularly high on the adoption list. He will go into the system of warehousing. There he will sit at the whim of politics, his very life as a bargaining chip. His walk was long and with each step my heart ached.”

The last horse of the day, an overo paint, came in alone.

“Young studs are on the ‘ship’ list with no chance of release,” Leigh wrote. “He will go into that system of holding, likely never to be a band stallion, gelded and awaiting the political wind to blow.”

Captured horses are being transported to the Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Center near Reno, Nevada, where they will be prepared for the BLM adoption program. Those not adopted will later be taken to off-range pastures.

The BLM set out to capture 680 wild horses in and around the Elko District’s Rock Creek and Owyhee Horse Management Areas. Of those, about 450 were to be removed from the range.

A second phase of the roundup was scheduled to be held after Thanksgiving on the Winnemucca District’s Little Owyhee Horse Management Area. It’s unclear now when the contractor will shift to that area.

There, 920 wild horses are the be captured and 650 removed from the range.

Mares that are not transported to the adoption center will be treated with PZP-22 fertility control vaccine before release. In the absence of updated BLM gather reports, it’s unclear how many wild horses have been released onto the range.

The agency justifies the roundup as an effort to “remove excess wild horses in order to prevent further deterioration of Greater Sage grouse habitat within the Sagebrush Focal Area (in northern Elko and Humboldt Counties. Overpopulation of wild horses leads to the degradation of rangeland resources, which adversely impacts habitat for other species as well as the horses themselves.”

Photos from Monday, Nov. 14: