Wild Horse Education

18 Days and Counting (Roundups)

Photo above: Rushed trapping led to snow fence barrier being placed on panels AFTER horses were in the trap. BLM will begin helicopter trapping for the remainder of the fiscal year at Reveille.

18 days and counting until BLM sends helicopters into the air to begin the second half of the fiscal 2023 roundup year.

One of the most well-know aspects of our work at WHE is our roundup documentation, and actions we take using that documentation, at roundups. When we began there was no “handling policy” or access to daily capture and holding. Back in those days, not many people tried to go to roundups and those that did, found themselves unwelcome and forbidden (except for a handful of those deemed “friends” of contractors or BLM). Our precedent setting litigation changed that. WHE is still the only organization to ever litigate specifically against abuse. There are now policies to address both that may be imperfect, but they exist where none existed before.

Today the fight is to gain accountability to those policies and revisions to make sure they adhere to the letter of the law. The complete change we seek comes about not in an instant, but through a collection of instances like steps on a path… we cannot reach the destination without forging the path. We remain on the path to stop abuses on and off the range.

Today, we are the only organization that completes an independent CAWP (Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy) review. We publish assessments and recommendations and use these reports to push for the desperately needed policy change (in addition to doing daily reports from the field to keep the public informed).

Roundups, funded by the Appropriations bill, begin in October. The federal year 2023 began October 2022. Helicopters can be used to capture wild horses from October-the last day of February, then stop until July 1. BLM uses an old observational notation to denote “foaling season” from March 1-June 30 to mark the time they are forbidden to capture wild horses. They note no foaling season for wild burros and use helicopters for burro capture all year. BLM does not have site-specific data to specify actual foaling season for distinct herds that live in very different range conditions.  (We often hear confusion because the federal government operates on a fiscal year that ends in October and helicopter drive trapping does not take place from March-June 30.)

Earlier this year Dina Titus (D-NV) reintroduced the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act of 2023. First introduced last year after a young colt snapped a leg during a brutal roundup in NV at the Pancake Complex. Our team captured exclusive footage that inspired this legislation and news stories around the country.

Warning: Video below contains disturbing content. This incident is mentioned specifically in the bill to ban helicopter roundups.

In addition, our teams are leading active litigation in multiple areas to push BLM to create management plans that specifically address things like foaling season. BLM has to stop basing roundups on decades old assertions and myths and start using data to back up their claims. BLM is prohibited from flying helicopters during foaling season now but insists foaling season for every herd in the West is March through June (it’s not) at the same time as they manipulate natural foaling seasons by applying multiple types of fertility control knocking natural rhythms further and further off-kilter. So not only are they basing roundups on population levels that are absurdly low, forage allocations that grossly favor livestock, failing to protect wild horse habitat from mining, they are also conducting roundups during the most fragile times of year in July and February.

Right now we are trying to see how much of the final leg of fiscal 2023 we can cover. Roundups are grueling to both human and equipment. The pace is hectic.

Before roundups begin the BLM will hold an Advisory Board meeting. You can participate. Info HERE.

Things to know about the upcoming roundup season:

On the schedule we see a lot of repeats from 2020/2021: Reveille, Antelope, the Surprise Complex (High Rock, Fox Hog, Wall Canyon), etc. Many of you will recognize areas where PZP darting has taken place over the years at McCullough Peaks and Sand Wash Basin.

You can find the current schedule HERE.

Ranges in the West were hit hard this winter. BLM “planning” created removal numbers based on census flights done a year ago (or longer). Until BLM performs (and publishes) a full census flight for any HMA they place on the schedule, the numbers to remove will not be an accurate representation of the numbers on the ground that survived through the winter. (BLM NV and Wyoming have both noted massive hardships and die-off threats.)


Frequent Questions


The national office will determine which states get how much money for the “range” program and roundups. State offices control the funding that goes to the districts for any range monitoring, hiring personnel, equipment, and roundups. They create a “priority” list and send to the National office that provides money to be used by districts to determine how that funding is spent. This is one of the reasons the roundup schedule can change rapidly; states change priorities and may often juggle numbers to ad “emergency removals” they did not oroginally include on the priority list.

The national office controls funding for the system of “adoptions” and holding (including all the funding for the ill conceived Adoption Incentive Program that has been funneling a record number of young wild horses into the slaughter pipeline, taxpayer subsidized).

Essentially there are two distinct branches of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program that draw paychecks and policy from two different bureaucratic pipelines. The BLM employee that works in a district office is in a completely different food chain than the employee that works at a facility. Many times these employees are rather clueless when it comes to answering questions about the other “branch” of the program; that is how distinct these branches are.

You can take action on the 2024 budget in our 4-step action plan HERE.

What is CAWP?

CAWP stands for “Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy.” It is the first actual policy that attempts to set a standard of care and handling for wild horses and burros as mandated by law. BLM has failed miserably in assessing, revising and creating accountability. WHE’s independent CAWP (Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy) review.

CAWP (originally IM 2015-151) is a standard that BLM developed with (paid through grant) UC Davis. Since the creation of the original policy, the same policy is simply renewed each year. BLM is in process of adding “permanent” to the designation of many of these IMs without any revision process, including simply rolling over CAWP.

You can read more about this history of the fight against abuse, to gain and enforce a policy HERE.

WHE 2022 in roundups


Thank you for keeping us in the fight!



Categories: Wild Horse Education