Zero wild horses were captured today as an incident with one of the helicopters ended operations early. BLM reports that no human or wild horse was injured, just shaken up. Yes, there are pregnant mares in this run, and one very pregnant mare struggling at the end of the line. (In the video we repeat the moment after the chopper turn and lowers to head toward the band… the moments just before the chopper made the rough landing out of view in slow motion, and slower motion, so you can try to see if you can see what happened. The chopper you see after that is the second helicopter that arrived at Triple B from the Piceance roundup. Our observer tried to stay focused, as much as she could through the trees, on the incident.)
You can see the helicopter flying fast and low to the ground (common at roundups) after a turn to then turn horses, and the skid and rear rotor appear to come extremely close to the ground. Due to the trees we have limited view. We have already provided the footage we have to BLM for their FAA report (at BLM request). No observer could see the landing clearly, due to the trees. Other observers were too the far right and did not see the approach turn. We assume that is why BLM asked for our footage?
We do not know if operations will continue tomorrow or if there will be a delay. This helicopter has undergone numerous “down days” throughout this operation for mechanical issues.
We are glad to hear no one was hurt. This could have been disastrous for human and wild horse alike.
Fast and very low flying is common at helicopter capture operations. We hear a lot from BLM about the ever-changing restrictions on observers due to “distance from helicopter” (as observers are pushed further and further back). But very little information comes from the agency about pilot distances from wild horses, wranglers or distance from the ground. Maybe it is time to have this very important conversation about distance between the pilot, the ground and wild horses instead of always focusing on how far away to keep the media? (We have tried several times to speak with BLM to improve and define policy and have offered our database at every hearing, meeting and sidebar conversation.)
Our team remains onsite on the ground and at the roundup.
You can view team reports from 7/15-8/9 HERE.
From 8/10 and ongoing HERE.
Maybe it is time to stop and reassess? Nearly 1200 have already been removed in the 4th roundup out here in 5 years. The wild horses look good, we have had rain and expect more. The areas the operation is moving into can absolutely sustain the horses living out there now. Maybe it is time to do a management plan, not just the ten-year removal plan? Maybe create a data-based foaling season? There are still a lot of pregnant mares out there right now. Can we just hit pause and evaluate?
Edited: 5:45 pm. BLM is returning to the same trap tomorrow.
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Categories: Wild Horse Education