Wild Horse Handling Must Be Priority In Upcoming Roundups

Horses run to a lather at Antelope in sub freezing weather... we should never see this again, ever

Horses run to a lather at Antelope in sub freezing weather… we should never see this again, ever. (photo copyright Laura Leigh)

(RENO,NV) The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has announced that wild horse removals will occur this winter. Numbers of wild horses removed will be restricted due to fiscal and other concerns. The summer removal schedule did not complete until November due to multiple delays pushing operations that were expected to take place in fall, into winter.

“Mid and late winter roundups create specific challenges,” said Leigh “The most obvious of which are plummeting temperatures. However the most concerning aspect is the late term pregnant mares on the range. In the past I have watched heavily pregnant mares run in biter cold with tragic consequence. We will continue to monitor removals. With the recognition that a policy for humane handling is in it’s final stages, I hope to be able to report that the welfare of wild horses was priority and resulted in no injuries or deaths.”

A Comprehensive Animal Welfare Plan (CAWP) is in the final stages of implementation by the National office. No official word has been given on the release date of the final version of CAWP.

“After years of working on this core issue we are encouraged that it is being taken seriously,” said Laura Leigh, founder and President of Wild Horse Education, “We hope that there is real support for taking the steps required to create an environment that should help obtain the safest possible outcome from state and national offices.”

“Many Americans are actually shocked when they find out that there is no enforceable humane handling policy for one of the most significant animals in our history,” said Leigh “It is an absurdity that this issue ever had to reach a courtroom.”

Owyhee Complex, Winnemucca District Nevada 2012

Owyhee Complex, Winnemucca District Nevada 2012

Leigh and her organization have filed multiple federal court actions over the last 4 years that all contain allegations of inappropriate conduct. These actions brought the first court orders in history against conduct at roundups.

“I have documented severe injuries including a colt whose feet literally began to fall off after being pushed over rough terrain in winter,” Leigh continued, “wild horses driven through barbed wire fencing, repeatedly hot shot (electric prod) and even wild horses hit with helicopter skids. Accidents happen, but callousness is an obscenity and can not be tolerated.”

It is expected that operations this year will focus on removing fewer wild horses from the range and moving toward long range plans that include birth control options. Currently about 50,000 wild horses and burros are held in government facilities. That number represents more wild horses in captivity than on America’s western landscape.

“It is long past time that we begin to use the tools already at hand to work toward actual management of wild horses and burros,” said Leigh “Utilizing temporary birth control is a tool we have had for over a decade, yet failed to use appropriately. Temporary birth control, while actual data is collected to create a real management strategy, is simply common sense. Screaming about a failed adoption program and permanent sterilization is simply panic driven buck passing that belongs in the past, not the future. We are encouraged to see this conversation begin to change.”

In June of last year the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a million dollar, 400 page, report that essentially failed BLM program wide on any sound scientific practices for management decisions. The report went so far as asserting that past practices likely increased reproductive rates on the range further hindering the broken program. This report affirmed that data collection should be a primary focus in any management strategy involving wild horses.

“Wild horses and burros are under threat by so many interests encroaching on the small portion of our western landscape that they still occupy,” said Leigh “If we hope to see them as part of our landscape in the future we must begin to change practices of the past based on guesswork. Yet first and foremost is creating an atmosphere where wild horses and burros are treated with care. At the core of the program lies a beating heart that represents the symbol of the American spirit. That heart can not be forgotten by an agency focused primarily on leasing public resource to profiteers. I hope we are coming to the intersection where a new road truly lies ahead.”


There will be documents to engage for public comment on upcoming removals. Some removals we expect to be covered by existing documents. To understand the process that these documents are created please go to our NEPA page: http://wildhorseeducation.org/nepa/

To view video of past roundups: http://wildhorseeducation.org/video-2/

Some of the long road through litigation to gain a humane handling policy: http://wildhorseeducation.org/2014/08/30/triple-b-and-the-fight-for-humane-care/

We are currently engaging multiple avenues to keep wild horses and burros on the range while sound strategies are engaged to stop the potential for genetic bankruptcy, inappropriate allocations of forage continue and wild horses and burros end up paying the price for a range over crowded by private interests.

Please consider a donation to keep us active in our fight to protect wild horses and burros.

Please consider a donation to keep us active in our fight to protect wild horses and burros.

Categories: Owyhee, Roundups