The final countdown has begun for the removal of wild horses and burros on the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
We have written numerous articles on the history of the horses and burros that inhabit the Refuge. You can access many of them here: https://wildhorseeducation.org//?s=Sheldon In addition we created a “stand alone” site to preserve the legacy of the Sheldon, America’s “War horse,” http://SheldonHorses.wordpress.com
Last week a case status conference was scheduled in ongoing litigation against Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) for July 1, 2014. The litigation brought by Bonnie Kohleriter and Laura Leigh, founder and President of Wild Horse Education, addresses both an historic lack of access to horse and burro roundups at the Refuge and Sheldon Mustangs repeatedly finding themselves in the slaughter pipeline.
The Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) has announced the final removal of horses and burros from the over 575,000 acre refuge. The removal of 70 burros will begin on July 14 and horses will start some time in August. Last year burros were removed without any prior public notification.
It is known that Sheldon solicited for new contractors this year to take the mustangs. Several new contracts have been approved. At this time Sheldon has made no official announcement as to any arrangements made to ensure that horses will not be sent to those likely to fail to provide protection.
In federal court John Kasbohm, Director of the Refuge, told the Judge that Sheldon changed it’s contract from the year prior and that horses removed in 2013 would be protected. Very quickly it was discovered that these “changes” were inadequate. J&S Associates (Stan Palmer) was allowing individuals to take horses for suspicious purposes. Sheldon horses have undergone mass vasectomies and hysterectomies on the range that has resulted in less than a 5% birth rate on the range, yet horses were taken by one individual for “breeding.” It was also discovered that older mares were shipped for purposes of “rodeo.” In one such incident an employee of J&S posted on Facebook for people to “come and get ’em” post that referenced these horses in the context of a possible rodeo occurring onsite at J&S and multiple replies that included taking some of the horses to slaughter.
In prior years J&S could not account for all of the horses they received, a recipient admitting to taking horses to slaughter and foals in their care deteriorating from improper care. A few of these foals were rescued from J&S with the whereabouts of others still not known. The rescue came too late for one foal named “Apatchy,” because of the spot on his flank, who was euthanized due to malnutrition and severe permanent damage to his feet.
“We are working on getting clarification on the specifics of the plans for the Sheldon Mustangs,” stated Laura Leigh, “We hope to hear that issues have finally been rectified and for the first time in the history of Sheldon that real effort has actually been made to ensure that the descendants of America’s war horse are not betrayed again and sent to a horrifying death.”
Sheldon Mustangs were once part of an area where the government contracted for cavalry remounts. It is estimated in military records that nearly 500 horses a week shipped to Europe at the height of World War I, many of them taken from the area now known as Sheldon.
“It is incredibly tragic that the historic value of a living symbol of American history has no value to those that manage America’s Wildlife Refuge system,” said Leigh “The horses were there before the Refuge. They have existed in this intact ecosystem and contribute to it’s beauty. It is heartbreaking that we will never have our historic herds to view in Sheldon again. It is devastating to think that the last of the Sheldon Mustangs may go to slaughter.”
What will be the final chapter in the legacy of the Sheldon Mustang? We await the final announcement from Sheldon.
Wild Horse Education is devoted to gaining protections for America’s wild horses and burros from abuse, slaughter and extinction. Main website: http://WildHorseEducation.org
We are currently working on our short film on the Legacy of the Sheldon Mustang, “Forsaken,” with a new rough cut expected soon. You can view the “trailer” here: https://wildhorseeducation.org/sheldon-nwr/
If you have a story of an experience at Sheldon with the wild horses or burros please send it to us for inclusion on the webpage. You can also submit a short video of yourself or photograph for inclusion. WildHorseEducation@gmail.com and write “My Sheldon” in the subject line.
Litigation remains active pending final announcement.
We are continuing to contact legislators to protect the Sheldon horses and burros free on the range as “historic” monuments.
We are out documenting the last of Sheldon Mustangs on the range.
You can join our “action team,” in case we must make a rapid response at http://SheldonHorses.Wordpress.com
Sheldon Mustangs and Burros Slated for LAST Roundup
Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), is set to complete plans of “zeroing out” the Refuge of horses and burros. These mustangs and burros are NOT protected on the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act and are NOT managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). As such the agency has often skirted public scrutiny through hiding actions (multiple roundups have occurred without public notice), keeping roundups off limits to public observation and removals on the refuge often taking place while the public is distracted elsewhere with issues involving BLM or tribal horses.
We have written multiple articles on the issues at Sheldon over the years and they can be accessed here: https://wildhorseeducation.org//?s=sheldon
We created a stand alone website to preserve the Legacy of the Sheldon horses.
The sordid history of roundups at the Refuge can be found here: http://sheldonhorses.wordpress.com/roundups/
The mustangs living on the Refuge have been the subject of practices that the majority of the public finds horrific. As these horses are not subject to the protection under they Act, but are managed by the federal government, experimental procedures were allowed. The vast majority of mustangs living on the Refuge have been permanently sterilized. These procedures have varied from gelding and vasectomies in males, to hysterectomies (even performed through the rectum on one occasion, with a 30% die off rate immediately after the procedure with no follow up on the range after release) on the mares.
Our observations show a foaling rate that has hovered just below 5% for the last several years.
In addition to the experimental sterilization these horses and burros have been subject to conduct during removals that included hog tying foals in the desert for collection “later,” that died horrible deaths bound and alone.
In 2009 our founder Laura Leigh filed her first legal action against the federal governments handling of horses at Sheldon and their continual shipping them to contractors that sent them to slaughter. The Refuge skirted the litigation by entering into an agreement with BLM making Sheldon part of the “Calico Complex” in Nevada in the new “Tri-state Calico Complex.” This “agreement” was touted as a strategy to “manage horses across the landscape” and provide “additional resources” to manage the Sheldon’s.
The next couple of years Leigh and her volunteers and friends continued to “watch” the situation at Sheldon. In 2010 they found Sheldon removed horses in secrecy. In 2011 they discovered what appeared to be as “bone pit” where bodies were dumped during yet another roundup that was being conducted without public knowledge and “off limits” to public view. Leslie Peeples, then Wild Horse Education’s VP, found herself in a “chase” on the highway being pursued by a contract helicopter after locating the “bone pit.” In 2013 horses removed from the Refuge were followed to contract J&S (Stan Palmer). These horses were being “given away” and disappearing (some admittedly to slaughter). The foals that were observed were deteriorating quickly and a small group were rescued. After being examined by a veterinarian it was determined that they were suffering from malnutrition and one was euthanized as the baby had additionally suffered permanent damage to it’s feet.
Included in Declaration presented to court “The foal with the two hind socks was very lethargic the day we were there and even fell from weakness. It was so weak in fact when it fell, Mr. Palmer reached down and picked it up by its tail. A wild horse would not let a human get that close to it unless it didn’t have the strength to flee. The foal with the white patch on it had to be euthanized. It had a swollen front right when we got it. We gave it several weeks of treatment hoping to save it but after having it x-rayed, it had already developed into ring bone.”
In 2012 Sheldon finalized it’s management plan and made the decision (in spite of prior promises to the contrary) to remove all wild horses and burros from the Refuge over the course of the next five years. A “Grant” received by the Refuge then changed the plan to eradication over the course of two years.
The documentation collected on the Sheldon horses was presented to officials in fall of 2012. Sheldon officials did an “investigation” that confirmed the allegations but approved another contract for J&S in 2013.
A roundup of burros happened with no public notice.
Leigh and another advocate, Bonnie Kohleriter, filed litigation against Sheldon in 2013 prior to the roundup. Sheldon assured the Judge that J&S understood that no horses were to go to slaughter and he would receive no foals (yet he received pregnant mares). The roundup was opened to “public observation” that did not include any access to monitor horses after capture.
It was revealed very quickly that the reassurances given to the court that J&S would protect these horses from abuse and slaughter were not working. A Facebook message was posted by a J&S employee that essentially stated “come and get ’em, no questions asked” and the race was on to once again document horses supposedly going to “rodeo” and for “breeding.” This information was given to the court.
The case, that is still active, is now set for a status conference in federal court on July 1. Sheldon has announced that burros will be rounded up beginning July 14 and horses sometime in August. No official statement has been made on the intention for disposition of the horses coming off the range.
It is our sincere hope that Sheldon officials will do all they can to ONLY place the last of our Sheldon Mustangs, “America’s War Horse,” into hands that will make every effort to protect them from abuse and slaughter. However we remain cautious and litigation is active.
Please help us keep this issue alive this year. In prior years the Sheldon Mustangs and Burros have become overshadowed by the McDermitt auction of Reservation horses, BLM roundups (including one at the Pryor Mountains in 2009).
Help us be in the field to document what happens to the last of our Sheldon’s and to fight to give them protection from slaughter and abuse.