Wild Horse Education

Surprise/Calico Complex (Since when?)

Surprise Complex, 2021

In an extremely unusual move, BLM announced the start of the Surprise Complex roundup by lumping it in with Calico and calling it the “Surprise/Calico Complex.”

The single press release has many of you scratching your heads. It raises our eyebrows as well.

In an unprecedented move earlier this season, BLM ran two simultaneous roundup crews in the Antelope Complex; dividing a single complex into two and trying to present it as different roundups creating unnecessary confusion.

In this instance, they appear to be combining two complexes into one “event” creating another potential for mass confusion. Although each set of underlying paperwork mentions an undefined migratory exchange (that only happens minimally on the SE of Surprise in reality) and a desire to do roundups consecutively, no document ever labels these areas as a single complex… and the last roundups were not even done in the same year (Surprise 2021, Calico 2022).

Many of you are asking us questions about the combo press release. BLM has not done this before and it is creating one more layer of complexity to explain an extremely simply situation: our herds are being slammed down to population levels where BLM has never disclosed how those levels were actually set to suit profit driven industry coopting of wild horse territory.

This is happening while they hide under a tagline they seem to think is acceptable to the public of “expanding fertility control” to keep our herds incapable of breeding and behaviorally crippled. BLM does no analysis, monitoring or disclosure of data showing the impacts of lumping one fertility control method on top of another. (We will try to do an article devoted to this subject soon.)

BOTH of these complexes are on the schedule to “maintain AML” and not a gross overreach of overpopulation. These are essentially “fertility control operations.” The last roundup in these complexes (in the last 2 years) hit the “at or near” AML zone.

Stud released 12-17-11 Calico Complex after PZP-22 treatment of a handful of mares

Like you, we have seen these roundups listed on the schedule as two distinct operations since April: Surprise (California) to begin on September 18 and Calico (Nevada) to begin on October 1.

The new press release from BLM states: “The BLM plans to gather approximately 1,200 wild horses, remove approximately 780 excess wild horses from the range, and treat up to 217 mares with GonaCon Equine, a population suppression fertility control vaccine, before releasing them back to the range to maintain herd viability.”

What changed?

The schedule (since April) has stated that at Surprise BLM would capture 494 and treat and return 90, at Calico capture 761 and treat and return 381. If you add the totals: 1255 capture, 471 treated and returned.

It appears the Surprise Complex will switch over from PZP-22 (that they had stated they were committed to) and jump to match the push in Nevada to use only GonaCon. BLM has been calling the swing to using the hormonal vaccine (GonaCon) in a two dose regiment known to cause infertility for 5-10 years (rendering many mares infertile for their lifetime as wild mares live on average 20-25 years) as “expanding the use of fertility control.”

Calico stallion before the roundup in 2022; a fence and cattle guard kept him from leaving the livestock grazing allotment he was born into in order to find water and get away from the cows.

There is no Surprise/Calico Complex.

The Surprise Complex is managed by BLM California out of the Applegate field office. The Surprise Complex is made up of 6 Herd Management Areas (HMA): Massacre Lakes, High Rock, Wall Canyon, Bitner, Nut Mountain and Fox Hog. The Surprise Complex roundup is authorized under the DOI-BLM-CA-N020-2021-0009- EA Surprise Complex Wild Horse Gather Plan Environmental Assessment decision signed on July 12, 2021. HERE

The Calico Complex is managed by BLM Nevada out of the Winnemucca fields office. The Calico Complex includes Black Rock Range, Calico Mountains, Granite Range and Warm Springs Canyon Herd Management Areas (HMAs). The Calico Complex roundup will be run using DOI-BLM-NV-W030-2019-0019- EA Calico Complex Wild Horse Gather Plan Environmental Assessment decision signed on July 28, 2021. HERE

There is no “Surprise/Calico Complex.” The maps above are of each distinct complex. The map. of Calico showing the extended borders where horses have always lived on territory they do not currently manage horses. The green area is Sheldon (many of you are familiar with the experiment ground of gelding, vasectomies, spaying, that turned Sheldon into one of the most behaviorally stunted and aggressive areas in the West before it was zeroed out and the vast majority shipped off to slaughter).

In 2010, a “Tri-State” monitoring agreement was made after litigation was filed against the decision finalized to zero-out Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge of both horses and burros. This “agreement” made the case moot and a new suit would need to be crafted. This monitoring agreement never generated a single joint management EA. The agreement to “monitor jointly” was not a combining of the 3 areas into one complex.

Surprise, 2023

These two complexes have also had extremely different procedures for fertility control and tracking in the past; Surprise horses receiving distinct individual brands and BLM NV refusing to provide individual numbers for tracking. We have been able to track movement of individual horses captured and released at Surprise since 2011 easily in field due to the marks. But at Calico, BLM NV refused to uniquely mark the horses.

It looks like Surprise will now go the way of Calico into GonaCon.

How is GonaCon being used on mares that received PZP-22 in 2021? BLM has not mentioned any of that as they release a minimal press release that looks like it contains information by lumping two complexes into one. The release contains very little information beyond target numbers and links to the documents that give them the authority to remove those numbers.

You can read the BLM press release HERE. 

We have sent a list of questions to BLM asking that they clarify their intentions and separate the two operations in further press releases.

We want BLM to give pre-roundup population estimates and actual capture targets for each HMA in both Surprise and Calico. Our onsite team will be tracking removals HMA-by-HMA. 

What we have seen BLM engage in recently, is BLM do a lump number estimate for a complex before an operation without identifying an HMA-by-HMA capture goal based on population estimates. This creates a situation where it is easy to use the vagueness of the stated goals to hit areas disproportionately to suit politics (industry expansion). 

The way this press release is worded is more than unusual, it is disturbing. If it was created for ease, or to create confusion, or to bury the fact that Calico will be led by the same person that led the now infamous Antelope roundup… all this odd joint release has done is heighten scrutiny. 

Our team is gearing up. These areas have been very important to WHE for a long time and our reps are in field checking on horses pre-operation.

We will have more for you soon.

Our wild ones should live free on the range with the families they hold dear. Our wild ones should also live without abuse. WHE carries ongoing litigation to force BLM into open public process to create an enforceable welfare standard for our treasured wild ones. 

Thank you for keeping us in the fight!

WHE has been offered a $10,000. match to keep our team in the field and to help fund ongoing litigation. The match runs through September 15. has been extended through Sept. 22. Times are hard and our generous matching donor has given us more time to meet the goal! We are about halfway there.

All contributions will be matched dollar-for-dollar. Thank you!


Categories: Wild Horse Education