The Bureau of Land Management announced on Wednesday that it had ended a bait-and-trap roundup on the Stone Cabin Herd Management Area in Nevada.
BLM’s press release said that 314 wild horses were captured and removed since the roundup began on Sept. 1, while the agency’s webpage for the roundup placed the number at 322. Calls to BLM seeking an explanation for the discrepancy were not immediately returned.
According to the webpage, eight wild horses were killed during the roundup. Three wild horses died after suffering broken necks, two after breaking legs and three from colic.
The number of deaths is alarmingly high for a roundup conducted with temporary bait and water traps made of corral panels stocked with water and hay rather than helicopters. Five wild horses died during the roundup’s first eight days when BLM trapped as many as 75 wild horses in a single day, according to the report.
BLM set out to remove 450 wild horses from the range. It provided no reason for ending the roundup early.
The BLM said that “several springs are available to sustain minimal water needs, but with no forage, the condition of the horses is expected to continue to decline and lead to widespread suffering and death through the remaining summer months” — a line that also appeared in an Aug. 16 press release published before the roundup that included a photo of emaciated horses (caution: graphic image).
“The purpose of the gather was to humanely and safely gather drought-impacted and compromised wild horses within the Stone Cabin HMA,” the agency said in the Oct. 27 press release. “Monitoring of the Stone Cabin HMA during spring and summer 2021 revealed limited availability to water and forage. Due to the exceptional drought, little to no forage grew this year in Stone Cabin Valley. The gather was critical to ensuring the future health of the HMA lands as well as the wild horses in the area, both of which are in jeopardy due to herd overpopulation, limited water and extremely limited forage.”
In both press releases, BLM said that the average body condition score for the HMA was 3 (thin) with “many” horses at a 2 (very thin) and “some” at a 1 (emaciated) on a 9-point scale. No captured wild horses were put down for having low body scores, however, as has happened during other recent BLM roundups.
The 407,700-acres Stone Cabin Herd Management Area has an agency-set “Appropriate Management Level” of 218-364, or as low as one horse for every 1,870 acres. As of July, the estimated population was 1,037 wild horses, including foals.
Two livestock permittees who have allotments overlapping the Herd Management Area removed livestock in May due to the absence of forage and drought conditions, according to BLM. One of the two reduced cattle numbers by 45 percent this year, according to BLM, while the other has yet to submit final billing numbers.
Ordinarily, the two permittees would be allocated up to 13,864 Animal Unit Months of forage or the year-round equivalent of 1,155 cow-calf pairs. One AUM is the equivalent of one month’s forage for a cow-calf pair, one horse or five sheep.
In 2016, 292 wild horses were captured on the Stone Cabin Herd Management Area. A total of 171 were returned to the range, according to BLM. About 100-110 mares were to receive PZP-22 fertility control treatments. How many were actually treated at that time is unclear. BLM did not follow up with planned subsequent treatments over the years that followed because the district prioritized other Herd Management Areas.
In 2012, BLM treated 98 mares with fertility control on the HMA, according to a press report.
Wild horses captured during the 2021 roundup will be transported to the Sutherland Off Range Corrals in Sutherland, Utah, where they will be for adoption or sale.
The roundup was part of a BLM effort to remove 6,000 additional wild horses across the West because of drought conditions by the end of September.
Return to Freedom believes that we are in this tragic position because of the BLM’s failure to implement solutions that have been available for over 20 years For nearly 50 years, these horses have had to suffer this management program and the Americans who love them suffer with them.
This is even more tragic because other solutions exist now. The agency has resisted creating an infrastructure and a culture that could have made a sustainable and effective fertility control program possible. It has rounded up horses year after year while waiting for longer-acting vaccines instead of using the safe, proven and humane fertility control that’s available right now. These sensitive habitats are vulnerable to drought and, knowing this, a national land management agency tasked with the preservation and protection of our wild horses should have been prepared long ago and in a much better position today.