On October 17, the 2024 Moriah Herd Area roundup began. Since October 1, BLM is in fiscal 2024.
Scroll down for updates
When the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was required to designate areas for use by wild horses and burros. These areas were called “Herd Areas” or HAs.
In the late 70s and early 80s, BLM decided that for various reasons, they were not going to manage wild horses and burros on some of the acreage and carved out Herd Management Areas or HMA. So when BLM “zeros out an HMA” it “reverts back to HA status.” In other words, still designated for wild horses and/or burros.
53.8 million acres are designated for use by wild horses and/or burros in the US (Herd Area). Today, BLM manages 27 million acres for wild horses and burros; about half the originally designated habitat.
The Secretary of Interior has the authority to repatriate an HA. In other words, to establish an appropriate management level (a number that can live there) and manage the herds in the area again. The Secretary has never exercised that authority.
One of the things you can ask your legislators for is funding to evaluate areas like Moriah for establishment of a managed herd. There are several HAs in the US that have horses or burros on them, always have. These would be a great place to start.
This would be a good place for real reform of an old broken system. Remember, it is HA land that needs evaluation for repatriation not HMA land.
From BLM: “The purpose of the gather is to remove all excess wild horses from areas not designated for or suitable to their long-term management and prevent further degradation of public lands… The BLM will utilize the services of a helicopter contractor to gather and remove up to 400 excess wild horses.”
Herd Areas have an AML of “zero.”
Cumulative totals (FINAL)
Captured FINAL: 441 (137 Stallions, 204 Mares, and 100 Foals)
We will update as soon as official total is available. The goal is 400. BLM is trying to get approval for a few more to wipe out the population. No horses will be returned. BLM went over goal by capturing 103 (23 Stallions, 53 Mares, and 27 Foals) on the last day near the Antelope HMA.
Shipped to Sutherland off-limits to the public facility: 439 (135 Stallions, 204 Mares, and 100 Foals)
Deaths: 2. BLM says “2 year-old, bay stallion (Male). (Pre-existing/Chronic) Humanely euthanized due to physical defect, club-foot. 1 year-old, sorrel stallion (Male). Humanely euthanized acute lameness in both front legs.”
Our team members are in the field and we will update totals as time allows and BLM publishes official numbers,
Reports appear with the most recent at the top. Scroll down for earlier reports.
BLM captured 104 (24 Stallions, 52 Mares, and 28 Foals) going 41 over the capture goal.
Every roundup is not only distinct due to the herd being captured, but because of personnel involved. Each set of circumstances creates challenges. In this mix of circumstances observation usually proves to be a challenge.
We worked out some of the access issues today. Our observer was able to not only document that wild horses were captured, she could document which ones. We could assess condition of wild horses as they hit the trap, handling in trap and loading. We could not move further to the left to get a better view of loading, but this was a vast improvement from previous days and an onsite assessment was possible (I could see through the lens without having to get back, enlarge and watch everything all over again).
The greatest safety issue observed today were the power lines. In the video above you can see during a drive, after horses evaded the trap, that the pilot had to pull up and turn fast.
Below: The area where observation was first set did not provide access to see much of anything. However, trap had just been set and the pilot had not even done a fly by to check power lines. In that time frame we were able to discuss a location and found one out of the way that would NOT require hours of post production simply to know what happened that day. The image of the area our observer found (using a camera that shoots at 600 mm) without additional enlargement and the place the BLM Incident Commander agreed to set us during a run. Being able to actually assess onsite is important. It is not just all about a “helicopter shot.”
We have a difference of opinion with BLM of where these horses call “home.” BLM says they are off HA (Moriah) horses. Our opinion is that many captured today are Antelope HMA horses. In fact, temporary holding for the July Antelope roundup was far, far, closer than any boundary of Moriah.
If you look at the map in the preface to the roundup above, we were closer to Tippet than to Moriah. In our bank we will include these as Antelope horses removed. Whenever BLM gets around to actually doing a census flight (not just distribution flights) we will see.
When we are on range documenting these horses we refer to them as Antelope. We will add another map as soon as there is time and think you will agree with us. BLM says there was a fire and horses moved over from Moriah years ago; if it was years ago then many of the horses we saw captured were born where they stand. How and where BLM considers a “home range” is the subject of another article and will be very relevant to both Roberts Mountain (happening now) and Clan Alpine set to start November 6.
Above: We were able to assess both condition during capture (that can tell you how hard the wild ones were driven) and “who” was captured and not just how many. We were also able to assess loading (which was quiet and calm this day). Trailering was also done slow over the rough two track that led to the main gravel road.
We have more to edit and review and a team member out at the Roiberts Mountain roundup that began today.
We will update as soon as possible.
Day 5, trap 3. BLM moved a bit northwest of the trap from the first day (to the east of Moriah) and cleared out the area. About 22 were captured.
Run 1: These horses were grazing across the valley from us and picked up fast by the chopper. We are far from the helicopter and trap is directly in the sun. Right after capture one of the horses seems to try to escape. The attempt was not seen while recording, but only after enlarging during editing, due to distance.
When you are as far away as observers are placed, the clearest run of the day is run 1 (due to the rising sun and something called “atmospheric conditions”). Often you cannot really even see what you are video tapping while you are recording; you can see it when you get back and load it on a computer (often needing to enlarge).
Each run becomes harder to see and every horse just looks like a fuzzy speck while recording. We are so far away you cannot even hear when they are loading trailers as we try to shoot into the sun.
Above: 2 of the 6 runs had part of the run across the valley from where we sat (the first and second). Using the second run, you can see how that additional half mile away changes everything. When they were directly in front we could see color, as they are driven toward trap you can’t see much. In fact, I did not know a rider even went out until I realized the chopper had not left.
Above: The camera is shooting at about 1000mm. While shooting, I could not even see how the colt was handled until I downloaded and enlarged.
We left observation quickly to try to get to temporary holding to at least be able to assess sorting. Instead, after climbing down the hill and getting to vehicles, we were held on the road. By the time we arrived, all sorting was done. It needs to be said that the road that went by trap had traffic (trucks, a livestock semi that honked his horn, ATV riders and heavy equipment. In the few minutes after we arrived at temporary holding 3 different trucks went by closer to the corrals than we would park, one with a load of firewood.)
The experience of “observing” a roundup has turned into “just a random helicopter shot” and not what you can see and assess in the moment you are experiencing it. BLM complains an awful lot that all advocates post are the long helicopter shots. Maybe it is because you do not let us see the actual condition of horses as they enter trap (things like respiration and recovery) trap, loading and sorting? WHE would like to simply do things like check to see if padding is in the right place, if you dig the ditch to lower the back of the trailer, load slow after giving a bit of settle time, etc. We can’t assess those things, but we can assess the lack of meaningful access,
We fought in court for 6 long years and then went to the table in good faith to get daily access to assess condition and handling of wild horses. For awhile, we had it. Since 2018, the ability to actually assess the condition of a horse or burro during capture and the handling of the animal has eroded. Today, we see less with a 3000 mm lens (often at the same trap) than we saw with a 300mm years ago. Now it seems like the objective of some is just to get a “helicopter shot.” Our objective has not changed and Moriah has been an exercise in sheer frustration.
2 deaths today. BLM says “2 year-old, bay stallion (Male). (Pre-existing/Chronic) Humanely euthanized due to physical defect, club-foot. 1 year-old, sorrel stallion (Male). Humanely euthanized acute lameness in both front legs.”
Run 1, the only relatively clear one of the day.
112 (38 Stallions, 51 Mares, and 23 Foals) wild horses captured on this very, very long day as BLM squeezed this trap.
Run 1 continued the chaotic pattern of yesterday. Run 2 was “clean” and without constant confusion.
Then BLM began to squeeze this area to eliminate wild horses in the area of this trap. Runs were exceedingly long. Wild horses came in soaked in sweat (even though the distance and heat distortion is present, you can still see the “wet.”).
2 wild horses were roped. Including the last horse to enter trap. Roping took place at distance and it is hard to tell if the last colt was dragged onto the trailer.
Above: The observer said she had no idea where the colt was and thought it had been put into trap before trailer pulled out and then saw the rider, hit record and saw the foal clearly only after getting this onto the computer. Sometimes in the field… you simply have to guess and hit the shutter. Ask anyone that has been to a roundup in NV.
At this trap, bands have to navigate at least 3 barbed wire fences (depending on direction).
Below: Run 3. Every run had chaos.
The was fast-paced and relentless.
99 (29 Stallions, 48 Mares, and 22 Foals) were captured.
The first run began before others had settled in and gotten cameras ready. There are a few hours of video and a thousand still images to fully review (we will get as much up as we can as time allows.
Above: The first run was fast and included the “back and forth” at trap that continued to be a theme throughout the day. A little foal tried really hard to keep up. Mom went back for her baby on more than one occasion. As family was trapped, baby bolted out of the wings and was roped.
Over the last few years a “clean run into the trap” is becoming a rarity and the kind of chaos we saw today is sadly becoming the norm.
After the first two runs that captured horses near the trap, drives took in excess of 50 minutes. Every single run had issues in the wings.
A stallion seemed to have evaded a drive on the other side of the trees and brought his band up into the trees toward the area where observers were and a ranger was parked. Very quickly, a copper came overhead and chased the small family relentlessly in the back and forth and back and forth in the wings. Somehow the stallion evaded, was chased, was seen coughing in the wings (on video), chased again and then let go…. and he simply slowly walked toward his family in the pens and then walked out of sight. (Will edit video as time allows)
We told BLM at the start of the day that the weather report said it would hit 85 degrees (it was in the 30s at dawn). We were scoffed at. When trapping ended for the day, it was 86. The weather service says 86, BLM says 73.
BLM will return to this trap tomorrow.
Video above: you can see rival stallions fighting as bands with small foals are pushed together and run toward the trap at the same time. We are really far from the runs today.
Last day at trap 1. 42(14 Stallions, 17 Mares, and 11 Foals) were captured “cleaning the area of the trap” out of wild horses.
All of the wild ones were taken from the West and Northwest of trap (in other words, the far side) and we could not really assess anything today.
When trap moves tomorrow and wild ones are trailered further, we hope BLM reminds drivers to take it slow off road. The dust is heavy alkaline. The horse is an obligate nasal breather; it can only breath through the nostrils. This dust burns and causes sinus inflammation (imagine something like table salt up your nose) and is drawn into the lungs making horses more susceptible to upper respiratory diseases once trucked to holding facilities.
63 (27 Stallions, 24 Mares, and 12 Foals) wild horses were captured on the first day of the operation to remove all wild horses from Moriah. The last roundup in this area was in 2010.
The wings of the trap were behind a mountain and, although we could hear that there appeared to be issues at the trap mouth, we could not see what they were. We also could not count the number of horses that actually went into trap because the trap sloped to the opposite side. We were at such a long distance that activities at trap were hard to see.
Above: In attempting to evade the helicopter this group came behind observation. A fast radio call and the chopper was on them. One mare appears pregnant. Her stallion tries to draw off the chopper and gives a fight at the trap mouth (that we could not see). We could see 2 of the horses head over the far rise and 3 evaded behind the hill (visible so briefly that I could not catch with camera) and were captured.
Same trap tomorrow to “clean” the area of horses.
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.
WHE carries ongoing litigation to hold BLM accountable. Our wild ones need data-based on-range planning (BLM has scant data, science and basic management planning) and transparency.
Thank you for keeping us in the fight!
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