Red Desert roundup, Day Three: 87 wild horses captured, 2 killed

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A contractor’s helicopter drives wild horses in a trap during a 2017 roundup in Wyoming’s Checkerboard region. RTF file photo by Steve Paige.

Two wild horses died and at least 87 were captured as the Bureau of Land Management’s Red Desert Complex roundup continued on Thursday, bringing the number removed from their home range to 434 in just three days.

According to BLM, one foal was put down after breaking its hind leg. Another horse was also euthanized for “a pre-existing condition,” but the agency did not say in its gather report what that condition was and did not post a veterinary report.

Five wild horses have died so far, including three foals. On Wednesday, two died of capture shock, BLM said.

Also on Thursday, BLM said it sent an orphaned foal to the Wyoming Honor Farm, a prison in Riverton, Wyo., with a wild horse program dating to 1988.

BLM intends to remove 2,670 adult wild horses — 76% of the Red Desert population — from their home range over the next six to eight weeks.

The agency claims that the roundup is needed because of what it deems overpopulation of wild horses, deterioration of rangeland and requests to remove wild horses from neighboring private land. The current population is estimated by the agency to be about 3,500 wild horses.

BLM intends to select mares and stallions from among those captured “to ensure genetic variability and to preserve the New World Iberian Genotype present in the complex.” All mares returned are to be treated with fertility control vaccine.

Most of the wild horses captured will be transported to holding facilities in Rock Springs, Wyo., Canon City, Colo., or Axtell, Utah., seperated from their family bands, sorted by age and gender, then offered for adoption. Some will be taken to the Wyoming Honor Farm in Riverton, Wyo., or the Mantle Adoption and Training Facility in Wheatland, Wyo., for gentling before being offered for adoption.

On Wednesday, 93 wild horses were shipped to Rock Springs, 36 to Axtell.

BLM’s goal of capturing and removing “adult” wild horses implies that foals may not be counted. In 2017, BLM Wyoming conducted a roundup in the state’s Checkerboard region during which it quickly became clear to observers that foals and weanlings were not being counted toward the total. A federal judge rejected a preliminary injunction intended to stop the roundup, however.

The BLM-set “Appropriate Management Level” for the Red Desert Complex is 481-725 horses — as low as one horse for every 1,566 acres of the complex, which includes 703,500 acres of public land and 49,500 acres of private land.

For livestock in the complex, BLM has allotted 69,889 Animal Unit Months. One AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow-calf combination, one horse, or five sheep for a month. Actual use has varied from 10-70% of authorized use in recent years, depending on availability of forage and water, according to the agency.

The Red Desert Complex includes the Antelope Hills, Crooks Gap, Green Mountain, Lost Creek and Stewart Creek Herd Management Areas in south-central Wyoming.

To read BLM’s planning documents, click here.

For BLM’s tentative roundup calendar, click here.

Viewing the roundup

BLM will escort members of the public that wish to view the roundup to viewing sites. Those that wish to participate must notify Sarah Beckwith at sbeckwith@blm.gov or (307) 347-5207. Participants must provide their own transportation, water and food. The BLM recommends footwear and clothing suitable for harsh field conditions and a four-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle. Public restrooms are not be available onsite.

Take Action

Call your members of Congress at (202) 225-3121 (to find direct numbers, click here).

Urge your senators to:

* Oppose a new, quietly implemented BLM policy increasing the number of wild horses that can be sold to individuals and the frequency of those sales. This move will only lead to the slaughter of wild horses, something Congress has strongly rejected;

* Stand strong in Conference committee on the Senate’s language protecting wild horses and burros and on defunding horse slaughter, if the senator sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee (click to see a list of members).

For senators not on the Senate Appropriations Committee: Ask them to tell members of the Conference committee that constituents do not want them to waiver either on protecting wild horses or defunding horse slaughter.

* Support the SAFE Act (S. 1706) to ban slaughter and the transportation of horses for slaughter.

Urge your congressional representative to:

* Oppose a new, quietly implemented BLM increasing the number of wild horses that can be sold to individuals and the frequency of those sales. This move will only lead to the slaughter of wild horses, something Congress has strongly rejected;

* Oppose the House version of the FY19 Interior Appropriations bill because it contains an amendment allowing for the mass sterilization of wild horses and burros; instead, ask your representative to support Senate language on wild horses being considered by the House and Senate Conference committee, instead;

* Oppose the FY19 Agriculture Appropriations bill because it does not include the horse slaughter inspection defund language; instead, ask your representative to support the Senate language being considered by the House and Senate Conference committee, instead;

* Support the SAFE Act (H.R. 113) to ban slaughter and the transportation of horses for slaughter;

* Support the Horse Transportation Safety Act (H.R. 4040) to ban hauling horses on double-deck trailers under all circumstances.

Donate to RTF’s Wild Horse Defense Fund, which fuels our advocacy, lobbying, selective litigation and on-range monitoring of roundups

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