Above: View of temporary holding at Calico in 2011 and 12 (while we were in court on First Amendment violations) was up on a ledge for meaningful viewing and assessment of freshly-captured horses. Today, observers are held on a downward slope with opaque tarp material covering the corrals.
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The 2023 Calico Complex roundup has begun. Although, begun at the start of fiscal year 2024, this operation is paid for by funding from the 2023 budget as a single contract was awarded for both the Surprise (that just ended) and Calico referencing these two complexes distinct in underlying planning documents as one complex (even though they are being run under 2 different Environmental Assessments from 2 different years.
This roundup operation is classified by BLM as “maintaining AML” (or the number BLM says the land can sustain). BLM says the Appropriate Animal Management Level (AML) for the complex is 467 – 777. It should be noted that no census (how many) was done prior to the roundup. Instead a distribution flight (where are they) was done to set trap locations. The Calico Complex comprises approximately 584,101 acres, however the total area targeted is approximately 1,041,000 acres. Wild horses in these areas are moving due to multiple disturbances: loss of habitat to mining, livestock, geothermal and increased recreation (Example: Burning Man is one of the recreational events in this part of the West, the new geothermal plant and wild horses were just pushed over from Surprise).
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
BLM targets 569 horses for capture and, if they reach that target based on a computer model of AML, 151 mares will be treated with Gona Con (large doses of hormones) and then be released with around 171 studs.
Captured (10/17): BLM reporting, 489 Wild Horses (173 Stallions, 257 Mares, and 59 Foals) (Note: 10/10: reported, 376 Wild Horses (135 Stallions, 172 Mares, and 30 Foals). 10/11 the total reported is 377 Wild Horses (149 Stallions, 193 Mares, and 35 Foals) . We are looking into the error on BLMs website.)
Shipped: 329 Wild Horses (20 Stallions, 250 Mares, and 59 Foals)
Released: 145 Wild Horses (145 Stallions, 0 Mares, and 0 Foals)
(BLM words: “20+ year old, Buckskin Mare was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing fracture of the right front shoulder. 11+ year old, Roan Mare was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing birthing injury, “prolapse uterus”, that never healed properly with extreme infection. 20+ year old, Grey Stud was humanely euthanized due to a fracture of the right hind leg at the knee. 20+ year old, Black Stud was humanely euthanized due to a fracture of the right front leg. 25+ year old, Bay Mare was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: ulcerated cancer of the withers.25+ year old, Bay Stud was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: Lame, previous fracture right rear leg. 20+ year old, Sorrel Stud was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: Right front leg, snake bite. 25+ year old, Buckskin Stallion was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: missing eye/blind and missing upper teeth with a BCS 2. 11+ year old, Sorrel Mare was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing on left side and blind in both eyes. 11 year old, Blue Roan Mare was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: Infection; diagnosed as an incomplete anal sphincter. 20+ year old, Bay Stud was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: Low BCS an severe lameness on the front leg. 25+ year old, Bay Mare was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: BCS 2, loss of teeth.”
Our team has been in field since roundup season started on July 1. Sometimes we need to leave early, get back late and the support team is also running the range. We will update official numbers as soon as possible.
We expect BLM to begin the Calico East side around October 11.
Our team went to the release at Surprise (phase 1 of this massive and unusual roundup where both complexes received approval for 2 large roundups in 3 years) and is monitoring Calico horses in the facility.
101223: 28 (10 Stallions, 15 Mares, and 3 Foals) captured. 1 death, 20+ year old, Bay Stud was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: Low BCS and severe lameness on the front leg. (A release took place in Surprise; we were told that the West side of Calico had completed and there was no risk of horses heading toward Calico. HOWEVER, the Calico operation has not moved to the eastern side yet.)
101123: 40 (14 Stallions, 21 Mares, and 5 Foals) captured. Please note the continuation of the extremely low number of foals. (Our team member had to undergo truck repairs and is back on the road)
101023 79 Stallions released. A blue roan mare was killed; BLM said she had an incomplete anal sphincter. We expect BLM to move to the East.
Our field rep said she would hate to be a mare on that range right now. BLM captured over 85% of existing horses in these HMAs, shipped the mares to Palomino Valley Center and released all the studs except 3. Mares won’t go back until BLM decides which get GonaCon (that will keep them sterile for nearly a decade).
100923: 31 (11 Stallions, 15 Mares, and 5 Foal) captured. 3 deaths: BLM said “6+ year old, Sorrel Stud was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: Blind in both eyes. 25+ Bay Stud was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition; Fracture of the right front knee and blind in the left eye. 25+ Black Mare was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition; Missing the right eye.” Note: There are a lot, we mean a lot more than usual, missing eyes and facial injuries at this operation occurring during trailering from trap to temporary holding..
100823: 18 (12 Stallions, 5 Mares, and 1 Foal) captured. 1 death (BLM said ” 20+ year old, Sorrel Stud was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: Right front leg, snake bite.”
100723: 40 (16 Stallions, 20 Mares, and 4 Foal) captured on the third day at trap up behind Soldier Meadows (2 hour drive off pavement on rough roads).
BLM informed us last night they will be returning to the same trap for a fourth day. We asked about a release and were told “no release was discussed.”) There is no ability to assess during capture due to distance and placement. The extremely late capture days (crossing the playa where Burning Man is held at dark) have disallowed observation at temporary holding corrals.
Please note that BLM captured 112 stallions and released 31. BLM only shipped 3 stallions, killed 4. This means that a total of 74 studs spent the night in an overcrowded pen at temporary holding, a CAWP violation BLM is not allowing anyone to see.
Note the low number of foals coming. BLM did a roundup out here last year and put heavy duty fertility control onboard and will retreat any released mares effectively shutting down reproduction in this herd for a very long time and creating genetic bankruptcy (as the lifespan of mares is shorter than the efficacy of the dose schedule of the fertility control method being used, GonaCon.)
Above: The wild horses captured at the far side of Soldier Meadows we were not allowed to see during or after capture onsite finally arrived at Palomino Valley. The mares were placed in a pen near the Antelope South older stallions (not sure how BLM is classifying “older”) that are being sent to the off-limits facility in Bruneau, Idaho. There they will be gelded, sale eligible and hopefully a few land safe. It was extremely poignant to watch a stallion take his place near the mares and prance… one last time. The palomino behind him seems to be looking for the only shade available cast by the wall. The shadow disappears as the day heats up. Essentially, Calico has been offering no meaningful access to assess.
100623: 36 (15 Stallions, 17 Mares, and 4 Foal) captured. 1 death. BLM said “25+ year old, Bay Mare was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: ulcerated cancer of the withers.”
Second day at trap up behind Soldier Meadows.
Above: There was a lot of action. There were at least 3 escapes and the first entire run was aborted because horses evaded. There was at least one horse roped (a small cremello or palomino). But we saw none of it. We were placed far back on a hillside where all the action was underneath us… but we could not see it. However, there were several places to observe from on the other side where no horses were being driven. Under new NV (only) policy, we are strictly forbidden to even ask for better viewing.
32 (16 Stallions, 14 Mares, and 2 Foal) wild horses captured. Issues with trailering very long distances on extremely rough roads (2 hours from trap to holding) continue.
“Observation” was “approved” in a location where BLM could say that they had observation, but nothing could be seen close enough to assess one single thing. This has become typical at roundups where certain personnel are in charge. After a 2.5 hour drive to meet location and a 2 hour drive to trap on the dirt, there was no meaningful access.
We asked BLM to please check trailers on 10/1 and we assured they would. Our rep was told they checked semi trucks, not the stock trailers used to take wild horses to temporary.
BLM pushes trapping until it would be dark during unloading at temporary and denied access. We had concerns about eyes after trailering. The Incident Commander (IC) said, “You can see them after they ship to the facility.” Apparently we can’t. BLM killed 2 due to eye injuries they are calling “pre-existing.”
It appears that since we pointed out the unusually high number of wild horses with eye/face injuries to the IC (Garret Swisher), 2 were eithanized before shipped to facility where they would actually be seen. BLM words: “25+ year old, Buckskin Stallion was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing condition: missing eye/blind and missing upper teeth with a BCS 2. 11+ year old, Sorrel Mare was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing on left side and blind in both eyes.”
Again, BLM is claiming the horses are underweight. “The Henneke Body Condition Score of animals today is 3 – 4.”
NOTE: BLM’s website has just had a “glitch” and all daily reports prior to our team leads arrival onsite were wiped off the web. We notified BLM of the issue.
We are working on a long report. There are some serious issues with trailering from trap to temporary holding that began during the Surprise portion and are being allowed to continue.
These eye injuries are NOT pre-existing conditions. BLM is also NOT photographing horses they euthanize at trap according to CAWP.
Onsite, BLM killed 3: ” 11+ year old, Roan Mare was humanely euthanized due to pre-existing birthing injury, “prolapse uterus”, that never healed properly with extreme infection. 20+ year old, Grey Stud was humanely euthanized due to a fracture of the right hind leg at the knee. 20+ year old, Black Stud was humanely euthanized due to a fracture of the right front leg.”
Mares and foals were shipped to PVC and 31 stallions were returned; the rest of the stallions (20) will be shipped to facility for permanent removal along with horses captured that same morning.
What we are noticing at this “Surprise/Calico” operation is that wild horses are going through extreme stress: run by chopper, sorted and loaded at trap, trailered to temporary holding, sorted, and if captured in the first run or two of the day, are being loaded and send to the processing (short term) holding facility.
Above: Mares arriving on 10/3, captured on 10/2 where BLM said: “The BCS was 3 to 4.5.” A “5” is perfect, a “3” is really thin. Why does it matter? Because a body score less than “perfect” helps justify a removal. BLM does not pass on photos with each roundup, just numbers.
Since the Surprise portion of this operation (where they noted a couple of “3’s” as “1’s”), BLM has been scoring body condition a bit misrepresentative (going a point lower than the horse actually is on the scale). They are continuing to do that. The majority coming in hit that 4-6 range. (photo chart from Heart of Phoenix Rescue) When scoring a wild horse you also need to take into account breed contribution. The area of the capture at Calico has had an historic Thoroughbred influence due to the contract for “war horses” for the Army (indicating higher withers). You can find an article about body score and wild horses HERE.
50 (17 Stallions, 31 Mares, and 2 Foals). Only 2 foals were captured. Please remember, there was a roundup in Calico just last year.
We are working on a longform report and will link it here.
Multiple bands are being pushed together into trap. We have seen some people call the entire group that hits the wing a “band.” A bands is 1 stallion and his mares or a group of bachelors. There can be fighting among stallions trying to keep others away from a pregnant mare or foals long before you hit trap where they cannot escape each other and the likelihood of injury rises.
68 (28 Stallions, 32 Mares, and 8 Foals) wild horses were captured at the same trap as day 1. Horses were driven long distances and multiple bands were grouped before being brought into trap. Our representative could see skirmishes among stallions as their bands were group in close proximity to one another.
Observation at temporary holding is still on the low side of corrals and has not changed back to historic access on the rise above corrals.
Mares caught are being shipped to PVC prior to selection for re-treatment with a powerful hormonal agent that will (in the 3rd dose effectively render this herd fragmented). In addition to GonaCon, BLM is using sex-skewing (where they knock Mother Nature’s 35-40% male, 60-65% female upside down). We have documented extreme aggression on the range when BLM uses fertility control vaccines of any kind and slams an absolutely unproven to do anything at all sex-skewing. Personally, we think all of this is rather “sick.”
The number of facial injuries on wild horses under this roundup (that includes Surprise) to appear at a markedly higher rate. We can’t get close enough to trailers or temporary to see what might be the cause. It could be many things like not cleaning trailer floors causing slipping or a bolt of sharp object inside trailer, chute or panel. If we figure it out, we will certainly let you know.
Our observer onsite at trap reported it was a very long day. We will upload pics and count from our video (BLM is being extremely slow with publishing official numbers).
Although observers met at 7:30 a.m. north of Gerlach, operations did not get underway until noon due to rain.
There were only 2 runs. About 23 wild horses were captured (we saw only 2 foals and a yearling from the distance we were held).
Below: A rider takes off after the run, but not to rope a horse. He takes off to drive the cows away.
Below: A clear example of how historic access (access that was hard fought for) has been sliding backwards as big money corporate makes deal and gets agreements. Compare the picture at the top of this page; the view of observation at temporary holding in 2011/12.
Even with the tarp, if historic access were respected, and the traditional observation location provided, assessing the condition of captured horses would be possible.
Multiple factors contributed to the rapid slide backwards in Nevada including simply a shift in public affairs personnel, wild horse and burro specialists and State Directors. This negative shift was not rectified by the new Administration, but instead this BLM staff influenced and bolstered the continuing commitment to the 2018 “Path Forward” that not only created the current direction for wild horses and burros, but it set up a hierarchy of stakeholders. In other words, if your name is not on the “Path Forward” document, or you had a side-deal lined up with BLM, you are ignored because you are considered too pro wild horse… unless you go to court. The U.S. Constitution was not edited to exclude the First Amendment.
Our team is back onsite.
We are back in court addressing things like First Amendment violations at Blue Wing and Antelope; both of these cases are active now in the courts and address issues from inadequate data and science, the First Amendment and the lack of an enforceable welfare policy. It takes a bit of time to gain momentum… but we will continue to work hard to get access to assess and report appropriately to the public.
We find it interesting that the work we did is seen as a “gold standard” on the Fist Amendment to protect the rights of journalists and has been cited in more than 2 dozen cases to protect the press covering the actions of government. In fact, it was even cited by U.S. District Judge Michael Simon in his ruling to stop Portland Police from arresting journalists during the riots.
The only place that case is ignored is where it started, the world of wild horses. If we really need to run that marathon again, we will.
We continue 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. 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!
As holiday shopping begins, you might be able to find a gift for yourself or the horse lover in your life at our WHE storefront on Zazzle. All proceeds support our work for our wild ones. HERE.
Through October 23rd, you can help support our field team out gathering data to support our litigation against abuse. Click HERE.
Fiscal year 2023 helicopter roundup reports
Categories: Wild Horse Education