Wild Horse Education

Devils Garden Roundup (2023)

Stud captured 9/4/23

The Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory (WHT) is located in California approximately 7 miles north of Alturas and is managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS). The territory consists of 258,000 acres of Forest Service land and 7,632 acres of  Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. This is one of the few areas where USFS acreage is larger than adjoining BLM land. (More USFS/BLM intersection and how BLM usually takes the lead and USFS horses are captured, but not mentioned… HERE).

USFS currently estimates 1,339 wild horses live on and around the WHT and plan to capture 500 through both bait trapping and by helicopter drive-trapping. USFS says only 206-402 wild horses can live on the 265,632 acre territory.

Adoptions of Devil’s Garden wild horses are presently facilitated in a closed system that includes the Double Devil Corral and satellite partnerships. In the past we have seen many of the younger horses ship to the BLM Litchfield corrals and it seems as if the need to use BLM corrals is no longer necessary.

If you are interested in adopting a Devil’s garden wild horse info can be found on the USFS website HERE.

At this time it is unclear how USFS is distinguishing capture totals between helicopter and bait. As we learn more, we will clarify.

Cumulative totals: Captured: 58 as of 9/11

Most recent update will appear at the top. Scroll down for earlier reports.

092123 We have secured a spot and will head back and check on Devil’s Garden.

092023 We have reached out to Devil’s Garden to observe roundup and have received no reply.

091823 We just found out that observers from another org left, leaving Devil’s Garden with no public eyes. We are working on getting someone back there.

91223: Our observer has left to scout Surprise as another org said they will have someone at Devil’s Garden every day. To conserve resources, we went to scout Surprise where WHE has been the a presence for years for those herds.

91123: 6 Studs, 3 Mares, 2 Foals helicopter drive, 0 bait trap.

Wild in the Garden

090923: 9 wild horses were captured today (4 studs, 4 mares and 1 foal).

The wild horses in Devil’s Garden look amazing with plentiful forage in the areas used by horses. The low number of this years foals indicates that more than half the babies born this year either died from the winter snows or predation. So far on this trip we have observed well over 1800 domestic cows.


Today was another day at Big Sage with only 4 horses captured. No observation of handling has been facilitated to date at corrals or during loading.

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The only mare captured today seems to be trying to comfort and protect her foal. You can see, the foal wants to nurse and she appears to have a swollen bag as she waits to nurse her baby… that she will never nurse again. (Heck, even BLM would reunite these two at temporary holding after capture before shipping to holding. This corral is certainly able to have a mare foal pen and wean after acclimation to captivity.)

Foals are weaned at trap. They are not put back with nursing mares to comfort the foal or mare after capture. Our observer said she repeatedly hears personnel say they have “mare/foal pairs” at the corrals. No, they don’t. They have separated mares and weaned all foals.

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As an observer of roundups for just under 15 years, I keep being reminded of the line from The Misfits, “I never thought of it, but, I guess the fewer you kill, the worst it looks.” Each day drives over an hour long yield a handful and then drives that continually yield nothing. Very little horse sign anywhere. So far I have seen over 1,500 cows and walked through areas covered in cow dung and the range damage done by cattle. The line from that movie keeps repeating in my head…

In 5 days of helicopter drive-trapping and bait trapping, USFS has captured a total of 33 horses on a range they claim is more than 6 times the low “appropriate management level.” Only 3 foals have come in (or 9%). The area has mountain lions and hard winters.

We went our after trapping concluded for the day. The cows lounging in the “enhancement area” seems to sum up (all appearances of) how the forest is managed.

We were told trap will be moving tomorrow and we won’t have access to view the actual trap and will be placed over a mile away, again.

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Above: 4 studs captured by bait trap running simultaneously with helicopter drive trapping 9/7

090723 Zero wild horses captured at trapsite. Our team worked on briefings in our cases against abuses. Note: 4 captured at bait trap.


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You can clearly see the barbed wire fencing inside the jute wings; it is flagged with pink tape in sections. If groups of wild horses coming into this trap were larger than the 2 runs (6 and 4) we saw, this could present an extreme safety hazard even with flagging. This fence line should have been removed or a different site chosen. However, from what we see in the Garden it will be really hard to find any location without livestock fencing (or large groups of wild horses). The Garden is a series of fenced grazing areas for domestic livestock and not much else.

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Wild horses were driven at least 6 miles (as the crow flies) through the trees. Threading the trees literally took hours. Only 2 runs came in with flight starting around 8 a.m. and completing around 3 p.m. The first run of 6 is pictured above.

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The trap itself was located behind a stand of trees from the observation point. Only a brief glimpse of horses moving from the catch pen into the loading area could be seen. (above)

So far at this operation no observation of actual handling of wild horses has been provided. Perhaps the next trap will facilitate a view of the actual trap so we can view loading? We have also been informed that we will not be permitted to watch sorting at the corrals after transport from the range.

The second group of the day came in after the chopper refueled, twice.

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This area has intense lava rock. In the spaces we noted wild horse dung (indicating use by wild horses) there was an abundance of native grasses that had gone to seed (not over grazed).

In the area we observed intense impacts to plant communities and severe pedestaling (when the few clumps of eaten grass sit higher than the surrounding ground) there was evidence that these areas were preferred by domestic livestock indicated by the … a lot of cow poop and no horse droppings.

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It appears that USFS captured 6 mares (above) and 4 studs (below) yesterday. From what could be viewed at holding they did not classify any captured as foals. Some gorgeous roans were captured; our favorite is the one with a crooked ear. Note: The spray paint on the rumps of wild ones in holding indicates the trap (Trap 5 is near the causeway to Davis Spring and was used the first two days. Trap 32 by Big Sage is the new trap. We will try to get a formal list for you of how traps locations are identified.)

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By 9:30 a.m. on 9/7, they have still not updated totals on their website. If our total is incorrect by comparison, we will update.

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Above: Horses were only visible for brief periods when they came out from the trees and then turned and fled. Please keep in mind, we are over 1.5 miles from trap.

090523: Zero captured. The last group attempted on 9/4 was pursued twice, evading capture each time. Pursuit time of combined attempts was well over 1.5 hours. The horses evaded by remaining in trees, jumping from one stand of trees to another and splitting the group. It appears that a sort of “second set of wings” had been constructed and proved ineffective. Although the chopper spent considerable time scouting throughout the day, no other bands were pursued or seen from the observation location. An entire day of flight and crews yielded “zero” captured.

We asked (for the second day in a row) to be allowed close enough to see trap construction and were denied.

Trap is likely to move tomorrow.

090423: Captured 15 (6 studs, 7 mares, 2 foals).

Observation was approximately 1.5 miles from trap. Wild horses were driven out of the mountains and into a valley where, in a “360 view” there were about 400 cows grazing. In the video above, you can see wild horses driven through grazing cows and napping calves. As the day wore on, some of the cows took to a run as they all to moved to the other side of the valley.

Video below: After nearly an hour of moving this group out of the trees and into the trap, this group seemed as if it would go into the trap. A very smart stallion seemed to see that the person just moved the jute to enter the wings and he jumped the jute. The rest of the wild ones followed. 

This group was pursued and challenged the helicopter several times. However, they were eventually captured.

4 additional horses were pursued for over an hour evading in the trees. The helicopter landed and the day was called. (We have additional footage and info and will post as time allows.)

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Above: Mares

We toured the corrals to see the wild horses captured today.

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Above: Stallions

Above: 2 foals captured today placed in pen with foals born to mares captured last year. 2 burros live in the weanling pen and serve as guardians. We were told that mountain lions are in the area and cameras and the burros can serve as a warning system and deterrent. The flies were pretty intense. 

Our team has a lot of work to get done tonight and will continue reporting from the roundup as it progresses.

Thank you for keeping us in the fight!

Our wild ones should live free on the range with the families they hold dear. Our wild ones should also live without abuse. 

You can support WHE while you shop or make a donation of stocks at the end of the coming tax year.

To learn more visit the main contribution page HERE. 

2023 Summer roundup reports


Antelope Complex (north and south)

Black Mountain, Hardtrigger, Sands Basin

Devils Garden (USFS)


Categories: Wild Horse Education