Owyhee update: 1,412 wild horses taken from range await uncertain futures, Dec. 7, 2016

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One of more than 1,400 wild horses captured during the recent Owyhee helicopter roundup. All photos by Steve Paige.

One of more than 1,400 wild horses captured during the recent Owyhee helicopter roundup that will be offered for adoption by the Bureau of Land Management. All photos by Steve Paige.


Sign RTF’s anti-roundup petition here. Please consider a contribution 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 the humane handling of wild horses, pressing for improvements to humane standards, and educating policymakers and the public about how tax dollars are being used.

At the National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley, 1,412 wild horses captured during the recent Owyhee Complex helicopter roundup continue to be sorted and separated by sex and age.

At the center, located north of Reno, Nevada, family bands are destroyed. Horses are numbered and branded. Studs ages 1-older are gelded.

On Tuesday, some 200 foals stood or laid together in pens unsheltered from rain or snow — a situation failing to meet Bureau of Land Management’s own adoption requirements (pdf). Foals typically remain with their mothers until 6 months old, but humane observer Steve Paige said that it appeared some younger foals had been sorted.

The Owyhee roundup, one of the largest in recent memory, stretched from Nov. 2 to Dec. 2. According to BLM, 773 mares, 704 studs and 355 foals were captured.

Of those, 402 animals estimated to be ages 7-older were returned to the range, including 199 mares treated with PZP-22 fertility control vaccine. Eighteen horses died, including 14 that BLM said suffered from pre-existing conditions.

All of the recent captured wild horses at the center will be offered up for adoption by the BLM.

In August, Dean Bolstad, acting chief of the agency’s Division of Wild Horses and Burros, told the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board that the total number of wild horses and burros adopted or sold, from all roundups, was on pace to reach 2,600 in 2016. The agency’s tentative roundup scheduled called for removing about 3,600 wild horses and burros from the range.

While it is BLM’s stated policy not to sell to kill buyers, the fate of wild horses once removed from the range always remains of grave concern.

Unadopted wild horses are to live among the more than 45,000 others in off-range facilities.

BLM justified the Owyhee roundup by saying that wild horse populations in three Horse Management Areas exceeded Appropriate Management Levels and that sage-grouse habitat was being “negatively impacted by the over populations (sic) of wild horses.”

The agency also extended the roundup by a day. On Dec. 2, its contractor captured an additional 229 wild horses from nearby private land “to relieve pressure on forage and provide for public safety” near a road that leads to a mine.

By BLM’s estimate, about 1,300 wild horses combined will remain on the Owyhee, Little Owyhee and Rock Creek Horse Management Areas after the roundup.

Seven operators graze livestock on BLM land in the area. They are allotted a combined 127,000 Animal Unit Months (an AUM equals the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow for one month). By comparison, wild horses were using an estimated 27,224 AUMs before the roundup — 15,217 more than the agency allows for the area’s wild horses.

For more information about adopting a wild horse from the Palomino Valley facility, please click here.


Photographs from Tuesday, Dec. 6: