The Bureau of Land Management captured six wild horses and one stallion jumped out of the trap during loading and escaped on Thursday, the final day of a helicopter roundup on the Pine Nut Mountains Herd Management Area in Nevada.
That brought the total number of wild horses captured to 376 with one death.
This week, 36 wild horses were captured, according to BLM’s gather report. According to a BLM spokesperson, the roundup will continue without helicopters, using water or feed bait-and-trap roundup, but no timeline had been set as of Friday morning.
Update: In a press release, the BLM says the bait-and-trap operation will continue through August and September.
BLM captured 340 “excess” wild horses on the Pine Nut HMA from Feb. 7-19 before suspending the roundup due to poor weather. The agency resumed the roundup on Monday, with a goal of capturing 148 additional wild horses and removing 109 from their home range near Carson City, Nev.
Mares returned to the range are to be treated with fertility control vaccine. None have been released as of Thursday because the agency has not reached its goal of removing about 450 horses from their home range, according to BLM.
The agency has justified the roundup by blaming “excessive grazing from wild horses” for “degraded sage-grouse habitat and reduced the amount of native grass both inside and outside the (Herd Management Area). Because of lack of forage and water within the HMA, horses have been moving into residential areas and roadways, creating a public safety issue.”
The Pine Nut Mountains Herd Management HMA includes 104,316 acres, including 95,391 acres of BLM land with the rest comprised of other public and private land.
As of June 20, the BLM estimated the population n the Pine Nut Mountains Herd Management Area at 228 wild horses compared to an agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” of 118-179 horses — as low as one horse for every 884 acres.
By comparison, BLM has allocated 43,008 Animal Unit Months during portions of the year to privately owned cattle on nine grazing allotments that overlap the HMA, the equivalent of 3,584 cow-calf pairs. An AUM is defined as a month’s forage for one horse, one cow-calf pair or five sheep.
BLM planning documents note that actual livestock use has been limited to no more than 363 total AUMs, or about 30 cattle, for year-round use, since 2006. No livestock have grazed on seven of the nine allotments during the same time period, according to BLM.