Wild Horse Education

Surprise (fertility control release)

Waiting to be driven down alley to be treated with PZP and sorted for release.

The Surprise Complex roundup targets 1,220 wild horses for capture. About 1,050 will be permanently removed from the range. Depending on capture numbers, up to 170 horses will be returned to the range after fertility control application.

Our team has been the only organization on-site since the beginning of operations. 

“Blue eyes” in the alley awaiting treatment with PZP.

This is not an “emergency operation” like the vast majority of roundups at the end of fiscal 2021. The Surprise Complex is a good example of the current agency agenda: Large removals to get to an AML set years ago in a Land Use Plan, then do significant percentage left on range with some type of fertility control. This is the “2020 Plan” that many of you heard Secretary Haaland state that this current administration would continue to follow. (Most of you know this as “Path Forward,” but there are other agendas also rolled into the official 2020 plan as well.  See current Appropriations language that will fund the ongoing acceleration)

Below: before PZP application teeth are checked to approximate the age of the mare

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The public confuses fertility control substances with the methods of application. Both PZP and GonaCon can be darted or applied via injection as part of a roundup. “PZP” does not equate with a “dart gun.” Darting is a method, PZP is a substance. PZP is primarily used as part of a helicopter capture.

Below is the application process at the Surprise Complex.

Today, the  the agency released wild horses back into Massacre Lakes, Bitner, Nut Mountain and Wall Canyon HMAs. Exact numbers released back into each HMA have not been provided at this time.

Wild horses were not chosen through any data base of genetic information to make sure they did not just release “brothers and sisters.” The agency keeps no such database even though many soundbites to Congress may imply they do. Only a hand full of small herds in the US have an ancestral bank due to darting team records. Wild horses are chosen by “color and good looks” by whomever is in charge that day. “Brothers and sisters” becomes a high probability in herds with extremely low AMLs. This is not “managing a wild population.” It is not even a sound range breeding program.

This complex is managed for the powerful livestock permittees in these counties. Planning documents bear out that assertion as fact, not conjecture.

Trailer load of Massacre Lakes mares being released into a cow bashed dry lake bed. (On the way there we saw 3 dead cows simply left; 2 by water sources and 1 hit on the road. The permittee will be reimbursed for loses in other subsidies awarded to livestock beyond the absurdly low grazing fee.)

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Example of what the agencies priority “2020 Plan” looks like: Massacre Lakes has an AML of 25-45 (no changes to livestock permit, even though rangeland health standards were not met and livestock found to be a large contributing factor). If 10 mares were released with PZP and 15 stallions, then the “Path Forward” has been achieved with the “additional funding for fertility control” in the budget being spent as earmarked. 

On 39,926 acres of the Massacre HMA (that has had no roundup since 1988 and the wild horse population did not swarm the nearby town like locusts) 25 wild horses now serve as an example of the agenda written by million dollar corporate lobbyists and sold to Congress. This travesty happened in part by an unwitting public that bombarded Congress with “PZP stops abuse.” (Many still believe “pzp” means no helicopter.)

The Surprise Complex now includes 6 HMAs after Massacre Lakes was added in the 2021 EA: High Rock, Bitner, Nut Mountain, Fox Hog, Wall Canyon and Massacre Lakes HMAs. The combined acreage of the complex is 396,674. The “AML” of the 6 HMAs is 283-496 with low AML being the objective. When the operation is complete more than half the mares living in the entire complex will be treated with PZP. (note: These mares were treated in late fall. The ones already pregnant will foal next year. The vaccine will last 18-24 months. At this time this large complex has no darting team to cover the vast terrain and a helicopter will be used to retreat, or the agency will move on to other methods approved in the EA and create another area treated with a mishmash of methods and substances with no real management plan.)

We did see a couple of injuries in a pen that had a couple of older stallions. None were put down for “blindness” so we assume this guy was released or shipped. We will update as we have more info.

Yesterday, a stallion broke his neck being loaded for release and BLM put down two old mares and a stud claiming body score “2.” We have not seen any “2’s.” The agency has not shown us any horse it will put down as a “2.” We have asked that they show us any low body score horse prior to euthanasia moving forward.

You can learn more about BLMs new “Guidance For Euthanasia” here. 

Halfway mark video below edited to show body score we have seen during capture.

In week one the agency has hit the halfway mark.

Cumulative totals:

Captured: 555 (234 stallions, 232 mares and 89 foals)

Shipped: 435 (159 stallions, 190 mares and 86 foals)

Mares treated with PZP(22) and released: 36

Total released: 82 (48 stallions, 34 Mares)

Deaths: 13

Stallion, broke his neck during loading for release

12 considered “pre-existing conditions:” Mare, estimated older than 25-years-old put down for poor body score; Stallion, estimated older than 30-years-old for poor body score; Foal about, 1-month-old, BLM said was orphaned and dehydrated; 2 mares over 25-years-old put down for poor body condition; Stud estimated over 25-years-old for poor body score; Mare over 25-years-old put down for poor body score; Stallion, estimated older than 20-years-old (BLM said “Body Condition Score of 2, poor prognosis for recovery, euthanized);” Stallion, estimated older than 30-years-old (BLM said Henneke Body Condition Score of 2, poor prognosis for recovery, euthanized). Mare – 20+ years old, sway backed, BLM said BCS 2, poor prognosis for recovery; Mare – 20+ years old,  BLM said “sway backed, BCS 2, poor prognosis for recovery;” Stallion- 20+ years old, BLM said “sway backed, BCS 2, poor prognosis for recovery, euthanized.”



When people ask us “why” wild horse advocates cannot address low AMLs, impacts from livestock/mining/fences/roads, etc., the reason is that part of planning is NOT included in the “Path Forward” or the BLM 2020 plan. No funding or directives have been made to create actual management plans, just “gather plans.”

None of these HMAs have large population “stocking” levels that BLM calls “Appropriate Management Level” or AML. These levels were set in old Land Use Plans (LUP, RMP) and simply carried forward. LUPs are conglomerate documents that cover objects for an entire district that are written around existing grazing/mining permits and other industrial interests expected in the decade. In other words, an RMP “complies” with existing planning to set a framework for all interests.

There is no distinct/active/up-to-date Herd Management Area Plan, HMAP, for the HMAs in the complex that the LUP complies with. The LUP creates objectives for wild horses that fit in with industrial permitting. 

This is the key deficit in on-range management. Fertility control is not management, it is a tool of management. Only when an actual plan is crafted FOR the herd, not simply to remove horses to a level acceptable FOR industry, will we have management to preserve wild horses and their habitat (as the law intended).

We are preparing a Question and Answer event that will include an explanation of the HMAP and why a “gather plan” is absolutely insufficient under the law.

We will notify you of the dates as soon as we can squeeze the event onto the calendar.

Categories: Wild Horse Education