Surprise Release, part 2 (Broken System)

Yesterday, we told you about the release of studs back into Surprise (12-High Rock and 32-Fox Hog) and about one particular stallion and what his life will be like after release. Mares have been chosen and the hard hormonal hit of GonaCon is underway; mares will receive a second dose before release next month. GonaCon will close genetic doors (mares are unlikely to come back into estrus within their lifespan of 18-22 years). A census flight that should have been completed before both Calico and Surprise will be done after Calico completes to determine if more wild horses can be returned to the range (we have requested that mares untreated with GonaCon be returned if the census flight “allows” additional horses to go home).

Yet each image or story we we bring you carries a dozen more “in the moment” stories and deep background. We always try to write as much as we can before racing off to the next roundup, court case or (damaging) policy change.

We are going to slow down a minute and just give you some brief glimpses into some of the rest of the Surprise Saga before the public forgets this herd now that the chopper has left.

This old man was captured and released in 2011. The mark on his hip denotes him as a Fox Hog horse and the freezemark carries a record of his age and capture date from that year. In 2011, the “plan” for the office was to mark and try to track movement (the NV side refused to mark) and allow the horses released in 2011 to live out their lives wild (if captured again, the place of capture would be noted and the horse returned). After living nearly 20 years as a stallion in the Surprise Complex (and dealing with all of the challenges) he gained a bit of wisdom.

When choppers began to squeeze Fox Hog day after day with a relentless helicopter capture he had the audacity to move south to avoid being captured. He was captured on the last day of the Surprise roundup in 2023 and considered “off-HMA.” He was not released because of this and given a chance to move back home after the helicopter left. Promise broken.

Remember, any plan or agreement with BLM can, and probably will, be broken. It is just how this system works when a big corporate interest or profit driven use walks into the room. We speak from many experiences and not only the broken promise to a few older horses to live and die free.

This amazing stud escaped trap and was roped, choked down and then took wranglers for a ride. He eventually had numerous ropes around him as he entered the trap and we nicknamed him “Spartacus.” The video of his capture was viewed over 42K times on Facebook. 

He was captured on September 26, a day we had 2 observers at trap. One of our observers asked BLM if it would be windy and cold like the day before when gusts hit over 32 mph so she knew which coat to bring. BLM said it would not be windy. It was windier. She jokingly said “last time I ever listen to BLM on a data point” and went back to her truck where she could see trailering more clearly and get a different view of drives than the observer on the hill.

Spartacus was driven from the direction of the High Rock trap and was not “off HMA.” (Where drives were originating was clearly documented by sitting on the roof of the vehicle.)

However, the way BLM was shipping from the range to Litchfield was not first thing in the morning. Spartacus shipped with horses captured at the next trap, the trap one ear was captured at above… even though he was not captured at the same trap.

This designation makes him “not eligible for release.”

His capture inspired one of our observers to write this piece this week (HERE). 

He is still at the facility along with all the others “not eligible for release” due to moving from the disturbance, being mislabelled or actually Buffalo Hills horses that moved north due to disturbance in their homes like Burning Man recreation and new geothermal (video below).

Above: This beautiful stud, seen with his young son still by his side at Litchfield, suffered a severe front leg injury. Although still limping (seen in video above image) he appears to be slowly healing enough to move. We wish a sanctuary would come in and get this gorgeous father and son duo before they are separated. If history serves correct, the leg injury was likely sustained by the stallion trying to protect his son in a crowed pen at temporary holding before shipping to Litchfield.

Above: This group of bay boys were captured at the last trap and pushed into the “off HMA Fox Hog trap” from the area just outside Buffalo Hills. 

Surprise on the left, Calico (showing Buffalo Hills HMA at the bottom) on the right. Buffalo Hills is not part of the Calico Complex and had a roundup all it’s own last year. The area carved out on blue on both maps is Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS).

15 burros were captured during the Surprise Complex roundup at the High Rock Trap. That day the helicopter was pulling in from over by (in) Warm Springs Canyon HMA (part of Calico). 

A new baby burro was born at Litchfield.

Note: BLM was not “approved” to pull in burros out of Calico (Warm Springs) during the ongoing roundup. But being considered “off HMA” on the Surprise side the capture of 15 burros was counted toward the total number authorized for Surprise.

Although a few foals were captured at Surprise, foals are no longer the driving force for adoptions. We are aware that the facility is waiting to get gelding done (after the census flight holds the process up) for 2 reasons: one because they want to get it done before the weather turns and the other because adoption demand for adults and young adults has risen with the Adoption Incentive Program (AIP). The AIP is a $1,000. subsidy to adopter that often turn around and take horses to auction right after title transfer (you make more money on a bigger horse bought for transport to slaughter). (If you are reaching out to lawmakers, The AIP program needs to be defunded. You can see sample talking points HERE that cover a number of items that can help lead to reform of a system in serious need of real reform and not just more subsidized destruction)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To an experienced advocate, a release carries dozens of stories and deep background info that there is never enough time to tell as you race to the next battle and try hard to keep pace with a world of social media that runs on algorithms and ads and switches platforms faster than you can make a page.

We decided to take a bit more time and tell a few of the stories and ignore the race.

As our team continues to run for the wild ones as their habitat is rapidly carved up for profit driven interests, new campaigns are designed to manipulate support for grants and agreements, roundups and expanding abuse of fertility control (and abuse during capture) run rampant… we are fighting back with everything we have… because of stories like the ones behind a simple release of stallions at the Surprise Complex and all that faces the ones released and the ones left behind. 

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. 

Our new calendar design is ready for order, click image

Through October 23rd, you can help support our field team out gathering data to support our litigation against abuse through the purchase of our “stop abuse” t-shirt. Click HERE.

Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education