Year In Roundups Review (Fiscal 2022)

Above: The Surprise roundup kicked off the 2022 fiscal year (began 9/27 and ran through mid-October. WHE was the only organization that attended the roundup. We ran a 5-person team and stayed until the end.

In the world of advocating for wild horses and burros (the wild ones given that status under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act) the year is rapidly coming to a close. The fiscal year runs October 1 through the last day of September. Fiscal year 2023 begins October 1 for all federal programs, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and United States Forest Service (USFS) wild horse and burro programs.

Your input moving forward

As fiscal 2022 winds down (and we begin organizing our field teams for fiscal 2023) we have a question for our readers:  Do you want us to continue to cover key roundups from start to finish, or do you want us to go to as many different locations as possible for only a few days, as the BLM Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy Team (CAWP) does (how they do their internal reviews for BLM)?

We cover BLM operations for as many consecutive days as we can; we may not get to all of them because we do not have the resources, but we stay as long as we can. BLM thinks 2-4 days at a 3-6 week roundup is enough to assess handling.

Which do you think is better?  Leave your input below.

If you could answer below:

Check one:

We take our role at roundups very seriously. Our team members begin on the “observation team” and work their way up to join our Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) team. Along the way they must attend training sessions in observation techniques and policy as they gain field experience. We are not just sending photographers, we are sending the most appropriately-trained member to observe an operation where we have historical knowledge. Each person that goes to a roundup for WHE is chosen for a specific reason. WHE has the most extensive (number of days on range) library of roundup documentation in the world (we started before BLM started any visual documentation). We are the only org to use our documentation to go to court over abusive practices.

Another reason we go is to provide the public with “eyes and ears.” We are interested in how you want us to prioritize roundup documentation.  Please fill out the form above.

Fiscal 2022 end of year review. A long read/watch that you can bookmark to revisit later.

Surprise, fiscal 2022

The year began with the Surprise complex managed by California (physically in Nevada) (you can view days at Surprise HERE). We ran a 5-person team that included 3 of our “next generation” : a veterinary student and 2 experts in equine rescue (that are getting married–congratulations!) We were the only onsite org for the entire operation. Surprise Complex (Herd Management Areas or HMAs: Fox Hog, High Rock, Bitner, Wall Canyon, Nut Mountain) had not seen a roundup in a decade and Massacre Lakes had not seen one in over 20 years.

As with many of the operations in 2022, (funded through Appropriations and the “2020 plan“) these operations are considered Appropriate Management Level (AML) maintenance or achievement and expansion of fertility control. The public often gets confused due to many media stories that portray fertility control as something that does not involve a roundup. In fact, most fertility control is applied through helicopter capture and not through a dart gun. (You can learn more and see the application of PZP to wild horses at Surprise by clicking HERE.)

1216 captured: 962 shipped, 158 released and 21 died. It is, unfortunately, not unusual for the numbers reported by BLM to not add up to the numbers captured.  These wild horses were released after capture, not “re-released.”


The complex is managed by two districts in Nevada and the roundup is always run in two segments: east side HMAs and west side HMAs. The 1.4 million acre capture area contains four HMAs: Owyhee, Little Owyhee, Little Humbolt and Rock Creek. The east side is well-known for access games as they place traps in one area (on private property) and run wild horses from the entire HMAs on the east to that trap, even trying to limit access to the release of wild horses back to public lands using a corridor on private lands. Our team stayed for the entire operation and brought the most powerful lens we could afford.

You can see extensive coverage of that operation by clicking HERE.

Owyhee, like Surprise, was considered AML maintenance and expansion of fertility control; they used PZP again at Owyhee as the complex was hit by helicopter for the third time in 5 years.

Many of you remember the Owyhee Complex from 2013 when the judge set strict parameters for BLM to continue that included restrictions on hot shots (electric prods), barbed wire fences, foals lagging behind and more. 

BLM says 934 were captured, 531 were shipped and 362 were released to “expand the use of immunocontraception.”

Fox Lake and Range

A roundup of 82 wild horses at Fox Lake and Range set up the push north that would begin later in the fiscal year into Buffalo Hills and Calico. One of the things that confuses the public is that BLM often uses the fiscal year, not calendar year, as they did to identify Fox Lake as “2022,” even though it took place in 2021. Our team was onsite for the entire operation (not just a couple days). You can see the reports by clicking HERE.

83 wild horses were captured, 23 released after application of GonaCon and 4 died.

Several of the operations last year afforded no observation (Centennial, Nevada Range, because part of the operation was on military bases).


Probably the most well-known operation of the winter, due to the colt that snapped a leg, is the Pancake Complex. This incident is mentioned in legislation proposed immediately after the roundup to stop helicopter capture, do an investigation and limit the “population growth suppression” to application through a dart gun and trapping to only bait trapping in emergencies until the investigation completes. We think the tagline being used to promote this bill is awful, “save a horse, hire a cowboy,” and could be part of the reason public support was so hard to get.  Helicopter captures are done by cowboys, too, and frankly, they essentially have run the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. (You read more about the bill HERE)

We filed legal action against this plan less than 30 days after it was approved. However, BLM often ignores the land use court filings when it comes to wild horses. After the colt broke a leg, the battle to save Pancake gained much needed attention. Unfortunately, it is often a tragic event that brings focus to our remaining large and remote herds. The federal court filing (with our partners) is still active. This gather plan cannot continue to masquerade as a management plan for the next ten years.

You can read more about this last operation of the winter (Pancake) before the break from Feb-June (the time of year BLM calls “foaling season”) and see daily long-form reporting, by clicking HERE.

2,054 were captured, 2004 shipped, 24 were released and 26 died.

Buffalo Hills

This operation in Nevada continued the move north from Fox Lake into the Calico Complex and Twin Peaks roundups that will (or have now) occur later in this fiscal year.

This first operation after the “foaling season break” made national news again. This time for the slamming and tying to an ATV of a foal.

This operation also demonstrated multiple collisions with unmarked barbed wire, extremely low-flying pilot conduct (almost hit a wrangler), a horse dragged by the neck with a rope, and a BLM-approved run over a dead or dying horse in the trap. Even at the very distant observation location, where our team member was told “the public is not my concern” by the public affairs officer, we could still show you much of what happened. Our team members were onsite daily, working hard around technical issues that come with covering remote herds to bring you daily reporting. (You can see our in-depth onsite team reports by clicking HERE)

380 captured and 10 died.


This herd lives in an area where nearly 1000 new oil and gas permits were issued in 2018 alone. The area also has considerable private livestock use.

The Piceance East Douglas Herd Management Area spans about 190,000 acres. BLM asserts that 135-235 wild horses is the appropriate number to manage in the HMA. Our volunteer was onsite the first few days and noted this herd had many observers present. (You can see reporting HERE)

867 were captured, 761 shipped, 41 were released, 6 died.

There was a large number of observers at the beginning of Twin Peaks and we felt they would stay onsite each day (we were mistaken). We chose to use resources to go document elsewhere.

Blue Wing

This roundup (the third in 5 years) at Blue Wing was scheduled as a primarily burro removal.

The Blue Wing Complex Gather-EA totals approximately 2,283,300 acres in size and encompasses five Herd Management Areas (HMAs), four Herd Areas (HAs), and non-HMA areas where wild horses and burros (WH&Bs) migrate back and forth (BLM failed to recognize these areas where horses and burros were “presently found” as the 1971 Act decreed and simply denotes the movement to justify low population numbers without inbreeding). The HMAs consist of: Kamma Mountains, Seven Troughs Range, Lava Beds, Blue Wing Mountains, and Shawave.  The HAs consist of: Antelope Range, Selenite Range, Trinity Range, and Truckee Range (not managed or “zeroed out” primarily due to checkerboard and other industry conflicts). BLM says the 2 million acre area can sustain a range of 333-553 wild horses and 55-90 wild burros.

We tried to address the archaic and inappropriate plan with BLM prior to them announcing they would be moving ahead with the operation; BLM did not even respond. WHE partnered with CANA and filed litigation.

Access was abysmal. Beyond abysmal. Not one burro could be documented and assessed at a single juncture during the process: not capture, not temporary holding, not short-term holding. So we have added a First Amendment claim to our legal fight.

Both the Triple B roundup in Nevada and the Bible Springs roundup in Utah (where WHE has an active appeal in the land use court) are ongoing and our WHE team is onsite. You can see ongoing team coverage by clicking the names of the roundups in the previous sentence.

You can provide input on how you think roundups should be covered by the WHE team at the top of this page.

While we work on roundups our teams are also very busy working other channels.

We continue to try to address the fictions of the BLM 2022 report to members of Congress and the media; the date on the report is 2022, not the data in the report. It is absurd that BLM will be funded to remove a number of wild horses and burros represented in the report when many of those animals were already removed. (HERE)

We have over a dozen active appeals that range from wild horse removal plans to mining expansion. One of our appeals with our partner at WildLands Defense stopped livestock grazing plans in the Alvord desert in Oregon for the first time in 57 years. (HERE)

The Appropriations (budget) debate is always a bed of confusion with the word “victory” being used on social media to represent the exact same thing as last year… but reworded. We are trying to clear up that mess and get the few changes still possible. (HERE)

Our teams are busy addressing a number of other items and we will have more as soon as time allows for an update.

Our “fiscal year in roundups review” can give you a clear picture of where and why we keep fighting back.

Help keep us in the fight. 

Categories: Lead