Wild Horse Education

Off-Range Corrals (conditions, transparency)

Pigeon Fever outbreak at PVC and Litchfield, 2021

Infectious disease control at BLM holding facilities has been in the news recently due to the influenza outbreak at both Cannon City (CO) and the strangles outbreak at Wheatland (WY) facilities.

On April 23, 2022, 9 horses were found dead at Canon City that had been captured from the West Douglas Herd Area in July/August of 2021. On April 25, when 57 wild horses died in rapid succession prompting cancelation of adoption events and quarantine, it was determined this was officially an “outbreak.” As of May 7, 136 have died (this number does not include any stillborn). It was discovered that, even though these horses were captured 9 months ago, they had not been appropriately vaccinated.

Over 1000 are now in quarantine at Wheatland due to strangles.

Many have been reporting on these specific incidents and pushing for an investigation into these facilities.

Yes, we need an investigation into all facility activities and a halt to the accelerated removals stocking them to a capacity the agency can obviously not handle safely. 

Wild horses and burros die in holding facilities at unacceptable levels and due to unacceptable reasons. Unfortunately, what is happening at Cannon City and Wheatland is not an anomaly. Nearly 200 died from a salmonella outbreak after a roundup at Jackson. At least 100 died from respiratory illness (pneumonia) after a winter roundup of wild horses at the Eagle Complex. Hundreds died after a roundup at the Calico Complex. Winter helicopter drive trapping leaves wild horse populations extremely vulnerable to respiratory illness with repetitive and devastating consequence. On and on the vast majority of these deaths remain part of a history of post-capture deaths that go largely undisclosed.

An unknown number of wild horses and burros die after roundups unless, in the vast majority of incidents, someone does a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out. The agency no longer posts any facility statistics online after capture.

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Ringworm, overgrown feet, dust, mud, sunburn, etc. are also commonly present in captive populations kept in BLM facilities.

BLM recently formed their Comprehensive Animal Welfare (CAWP) team. It only took the agency 6 years to formulate a team they said they would create in 2015 (only after relentless litigation forced the formalization of a policy).

The internal CAWP team has begun to publish reports online. Even though these reports appear to demonstrate inconsistency, favoritism, etc., the reports do reflect one repetitive finding: Where there is public access, conduct and conditions are (even if only slightly) better for wild horses and burros. 

The BLM CAWP team has been finding issues with vaccinations (some overdue for more than a year), hoof care, shelter, height of lowest rails (allowing foals to slip under), sharp edges on fencing, gaps in fencing, fencing tied with bailing wire, lack of veterinary records, not enough access points to feed (keeping less dominant horses off feed), etc.

Colt recovering from Strangles after outbreak.

“Remove and stockpile, knee-jerk politics” has reached historically high levels under the BLM 2020 plan. Removals are expected to break that record again in the coming fiscal year (FY 2023 begins in October). Nada Culver, Deputy Director of BLM, was heard reassuring livestock permittees (during a meeting on sage grouse plan revisions) that removals of wild horses will continue to accelerate. The only caveat being holding facility space.

BLM is approving new facilities and facility expansion. These facilities are primarily off-limits to public viewing. Many of these facilities will not even offer any (even limited) public viewing.

The BLM internal CAWP team reviews even demonstrate that when there is public access, there is greater accountability. If the agency is so short-staffed that oversight is a problem from on-range, through capture, into holding and then into the adoption and sale program, why don’t they let the public fill our role intended by the First Amendment of the Constitution? The press and public serve a vital role.

BLM should not be allowed to create any new “off-limits” holding facility and add public access to any contract they renew.

How hard is it to create one public access day each week? Just adding that to the contracts would help the agency with their “oversight staffing issue.” 

WHE is actively involved in litigation addressing this issue. BLM is attempting to break ground on facility that will house 4000 wild horses and burros (in a flood plain) and not let you see them. (more here)

There are actions you can take to help wild horses and burros. You can find the action items at the bottom of this article on transparency and roundup deaths HERE. 

Our BLM on-range planning review was published last week as a follow-up to the DC conferences. You can access it HERE.

Our off-range report is coming soon.


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Categories: Wild Horse Education