Study: Horses Recognize Human Emotions

By Sheena McKenzie, CNN

“This comes as no surprise to those who share their homes and hearts with equine companions.” ~ R.T.

A smile can get you a long way with people — and animals, it turns out.

"Terry and Apache" ~ photo by R.T. Fitch

“Terry and Apache” ~ photo by R.T. Fitch

Horses can distinguish between happy and angry facial expressions on humans, a new study has shown for the first time.

The 28 horses were shown large color photographs of different facial expressions for 30 seconds, and their reactions monitored as part of the research by psychologists at the UK’s University of Sussex.

When presented with photographs of angry male faces — frowning with bared teeth — the horses’ heart rate significantly increased.

Importantly, the equines also moved their heads to look at the aggressive photos through their left eye — a mannerism associated with negative stimuli.

Information from the horses’ left eye is processed in the brain’s right hemisphere — an area specializing in threatening environments, said researchers.

“What’s really interesting about this research is that it shows horses have the ability to read emotions across the species barrier,” explained Amy Smith, a doctoral student who co-led the research.

“We have known for a long time that horses are a socially sophisticated species, but this is the first time we have seen that they can distinguish between positive and negative human facial expressions.”

The animals, from stables across Sussex and Surrey in the south of England, also had a much stronger reaction to the angry faces, than the happy ones.

“Recognizing angry faces may act as a warning system, allowing horses to anticipate negative human behavior such as rough handling,” explained Smith.

It follows another study by researchers also at Sussex University in August last year, which revealed horses have 17 discrete facial expressions to indicate their mood.

That’s one more expression than dogs (16) and four more than chimpanzees (13). Cats were found to have 21 expressions, with the “larger facial repertoire largely due to extensive whisker and ear movements” said researchers.

Carol Walker’s Tips for Taking Majestic Horse Photographs

By Jack Crager as published on Popular Photography

“Our own Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation at Wild Horse Freedom Federation, kindly shares some really neat tricks and tips on how to document the beauty that is our wild horses and burros.  Please visit Popular Photography to see her handywork.” ~ R.T.

Walker is an expert in highlighting the beauty of horses

 Carol Walker: At McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area in Wyoming, Walker caught a family of wild horses in early morning with a Canon EOS-1D X and 600mm f/4L IS II Canon EF lens. Exposure was 1/1000 at f/4, ISO 1250.

Carol Walker:
At McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area in Wyoming, Walker caught a family of wild horses in early morning with a Canon EOS-1D X and 600mm f/4L IS II Canon EF lens. Exposure was 1/1000 at f/4, ISO 1250.

Having photographed equine subjects professionally for more than 15 years, Carol Walker can tell at a glance whether a pictured horse is domestic or wild. “The domestics are usually very clean and shiny,” she says. “Their manes are untangled, and they’re prettier. The wild horses have a more rustic look—they’re just dirty,” she adds with a laugh. “They might have matted hair, and they look rougher. But they’re gorgeous when they’re galloping in the wild.”

Walker has an affinity for both types. “I’ve loved horses since I was a little girl, and I’ve ridden them all my life,” she says. “The more you know about your subject, the better photographs you’re going to get. With horses, I know how to predict what they’re going to do and how to work with them.”

A resident of Longmont, Colorado, Walker is a fervent advocate for the preservation of wild horses in the American West. “Right now our wild horses are getting squeezed out by very powerful interest groups such as cattle and oil and gas, so they’re disappearing,” she says. “I’ve been fighting to try to keep them wild. It’s a tough fight.”

Walker’s recent self-published book, Galloping to Freedom ($40; is sponsored and partially funded by Cana Projects, a wildlife preservation foundation. “It’s about a group of horses that were rounded up in Wyoming,” Walker says of the book. “They were all separated from their families, then reunited at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. So it’s a true story with a happy ending.”

The key difference between photographing wild horses and domestic ones? In a word: control. “Wild horses are a challenge because you can’t say, ‘Move over here, the background is better,’” Walker says. “You have to anticipate where they are going and put yourself in a good position—and then it’s luck. With domestics you can say, ‘Let’s go over here,’ and it’s much easier.”

For the latter, a handy tool is the universal lure of food. “Sometimes I have a can with grain in it and shake it—horses are very food-oriented so they’ll jump to attention,” Walker says. “Then I usually get the owner to turn the horse loose out where it’s safe so they can run, because that’s where you get the best pictures. I enjoy action shots.”

For the photo on our opening spread, a trio of domestic horses were herded through water by riders outside the frame. “There were about five riders keeping them in place,” recalls Walker, who was leading a horse-photography workshop in the Camargue region of France. “They’re running through the water right in front of us, in late afternoon as the sun is setting.” Dressed in mud boots, she perched in the water with a monopod for her Canon EOS-1D X and a 200–400mm f/4L lens (with a built-in 1.4X extender). “The shot is staged, but it’s really cool to have several horses running in a line—you can’t get this under most circumstances.”

Horses in motion require fast shutter speeds; Walker shot at 1/800 sec. “For a horse walking, the minimum shutter speed is 1/500 sec and for running it’s 1/1000,” she advises. “If the horse is running directly toward you, you can do 1/500 sec. I set the camera on shutter priority with moving subjects, and then I raise or lower my ISO [800 here] depending upon the light.” Rather than use a manual light meter, the photographer relies on her camera’s exposure compensation. “For fast-moving horses,” she adds, “I use autofocus and autofocus lock.”…(CONTINUED)


Feel Good Sunday: Meet the Newest Budweiser Clydesdale

Story by as published in Time


Budweiser is raising a glass to its newest Clydesdale horse Mac, its first foal of 2016 born Tuesday at 1:20 a.m.

To see him, Bud drinkers will have to giddy up over to the Warm Springs Ranch in Boonville, Missouri, home of more than 160 Clydesdale horses, a breed that originated in the mid-18th century in Scotland in Lanarkshire (aka Lanark). Its name is believed to be “inspired by” the river that runs through that area, the River Clyde, according to The Livestock Conservancy and the Clydesdale Horse Society. Historically used for pulling heavy cargo, they were brought to North America in the mid-19th century.

“The tradition of the Budweiser Clydesdales started in 1933 when they made their first-ever appearance as a gift from August A. Busch, Jr. and Adolphus Busch to their father in celebration of the repeal of Prohibition,” Anheuser-Busch said in a statement. “Realizing the marketing potential of a horse-drawn beer wagon, the company also arranged to have a second six-horse Clydesdale hitch sent to New York…The Clydesdales made a stop in Washington D.C. in April 1933 to reenact the delivery of one of the first cases of Budweiser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

Nowadays, Clydesdales are said to be primarily used for “breeding and show.” But no word on when Mac will appear in his first Super Bowl commercial.

Canadian Wild Horse Cull Lacks Supporting Scientific Evidence

By Julie Woodyer as published on

“Our friends to the North share the same struggles that we do in the lower 48.  Helping one another could reap great benefits for the horses.” ~ R.T.

Decision from Minister on 2016 Cull Imminent

Photo courtesy of WHOAS

A year-and-a-half long investigation and a review of the Alberta government’s assertions that wild horses are overpopulating the landscape and causing ecological damage has found no scientific evidence supporting those claims.

Zoocheck reviewed all publicly available materials, as well as substantial quantities of additional documentation, including letters, notes, reports and other materials, obtained through a multitude of provincial Freedom of Information requests. On-site visits were also made to observe free-roaming horses and their habitats. A technical review of the Alberta free-roaming (feral) horse management program was prepared by expert consultant biologist Wayne McCrory.

The expert report and other materials were forwarded to Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips in December, 2015 to inform her 2016 capture permit decision-making process; the Minister’s decision is imminent.

“The report reveals that there is no science supporting the capture for ecological reasons of additional wild horses in Alberta. Furthermore, government officials are unable to point to any evidence of rangeland damage attributable to wild horses,” says Julie Woodyer, Campaign Director for Zoocheck.

Alberta Government representatives say they want to ensure that some wild horses remain on the landscape, but captures have continued in the absence of scientific justification for removals, and with no regard as to how many horses are necessary to ensure the genetic integrity of the free-roaming horse populations. According to the Alberta Government, there are now less than 800 free-roaming horses in all of Alberta, and they are fragmented into sub-populations, numbers that experts say are far too low.

Wild horse populations in other parts of Canada are protected, but Alberta’s wild horses are being managed toward extinction. They have already been nearly extirpated in the Brazeau Equine Zone due to government sanctioned captures,” Woodyer adds. “We hope the Minister will move this issue away from making a purely political decision to satisfy the small subset of ranchers who don’t want the horses, to what the information and science actually shows.”

Ecologist Report: Wild Horses Serve Useful Ecological Function

Renowned wild horse ecologist Craig Downer recently released his own expert report on the Alberta wild horse issue. Downer describes extensive damage by logging, oil and gas, ranching and other industries in the Alberta Foothills, and says that retaining healthy wild horse populations on the landscape is a key strategy to its recovery.

During his 12-day visit to the Alberta foothills, Downer conducted 38 ecological evaluations in various diverse types of habitat. He describes in detail severe damage from human activities, and outlines how horses assist in building healthy soil and dispersing more intact seeds from a greater variety of plants as compared to cattle. He recommends that wild horses who coevolved with the habitats they now live in be allowed to fill their ecological niche and play their natural role.

Zoocheck forwarded Downer’s report to Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips in early January, 2016 to inform her 2016 capture permit decision-making process.

“Craig Downer’s new report provides critical information to help recover Alberta’s natural ecosystems and outlines why wild horses are an essential part of that recovery, something not previously considered in the horse management program,” says Julie Woodyer, Campaign Director for Zoocheck. “We hope that the Minister will consider the positive ecological role wild horses play in Alberta’s ecosystems, and seek to take a science-based approach to managing horses in Alberta to better rebuild natural ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.”

Wild Horses Couldn’t Keep Them Out of Court

By JONNY BONNER as published in the Courthouse News Service

 “The BLM is engaging in a concerted breeding effort and manipulating the genetic makeup of the herds, creating a zoolike atmosphere, in direct violation of and conflict with the spirit and nature of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act,”

Original Photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Original Photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – A federal breeding program for wild horses whose ancestors “helped settle the West” will reduce herds’ genetic health and create a “zoo-like atmosphere,” horse-lovers claim in Federal Court.     Front Range Equine Rescue sued the Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Board of Land Appeals on Wednesday, in Federal Court, in a new twist in long-running legal battles over the management of the West’s wild horses.

In May 2014 the BLM sought to “artificially” create a mustang breeding pool in the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herd management areas, about 50 miles south of Burns, Ore., Front Range says in the complaint.

The Kiger herd area spans 62,992 acres in eastern Oregon, and its herd typically ranges from 51 to 82 wild horses. The Riddle Mountain herd has 33 to 56 wild horses.

In July and August 2015, Front Range says, the BLM rounded up all the wild and free-roaming horses in the areas.
It permanently removed 156 “excess” wild horses, and returned only horses fitting the characteristics of the Kiger mustang strain, which “represent a particular type or breed of mustang with a particular genetic makeup.”

The BLM says the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herds mirror characteristics of the original Spanish mustang, which “was a part of early American history, having roots in Native American history, and is the horse that helped settle the West .”

Front Range appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals in June 2015, claiming the BLM violated the Wild Horse Act, which was meant to “deter the possibility of ‘zoo-like’ developments.”

The Wild Horse Act was written to “extend federal protection to wild horses and empower BLM to manage horses roaming public lands as part of the agency’s management of the public lands.” The BLM was charged with the “protection, management, and control of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands,” Front Range says.

It adds that Kiger horses are “highly coveted” by private citizens, as shown by their 100 percent adoption rate since 1986.

“By intentionally reducing the diversity of wild horses in the Kiger and Riddle Mountain HMAs [herd management areas] to only those horses with Kiger characteristics, and then conducting gathers every four years to further empty the gene pool and round up these valuable Kiger horses to sell them for adoption, BLM has effectively created a breeding facility that injures the natural herds’ survival possibilities and benefits only BLM and private actors desirous of purchasing this ‘breed,'” the lawsuit states.

After months of litigation, the Interior Board of Land Appeals held on Jan. 13 that Front Range lacked standing to challenge the BLM’s actions.

The appeals board ruled that Front Range was not “adversely affected” by the roundup and removal of wild horses in Kiger and Riddle Mountain. The appeals board added that Front Range’s “only injury” was the cost of the lawsuit.

Front Range called that ruling arbitrary and capricious, and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Despite numerous statements from Hilary Wood, Front Range’s founder and president, “demonstrating the various ways in which FRER [Front Range] has expended its limited resources directly because of BLM’s actions in the Kiger and Riddle Mountain HMAs, the IBLA opinion concluded that FRER’s only injury is the expenditure of resources on the instant lawsuit,” the complaint states.

Front Range’s attorney Bruce Wagman said Thursday that the breeding effort is “creating a zoolike atmosphere.”
“The BLM is engaging in a concerted breeding effort and manipulating the genetic makeup of the herds, creating a zoolike atmosphere, in direct violation of and conflict with the spirit and nature of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act,” Wagman told Courthouse News.

The BLM did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Front Range Equine Rescue, a nonprofit launched in Colorado in 1997, works to prevent the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue and education.

It operates solely on donations.

It seeks an order setting aside, reversing and remanding the land appeals board’s opinion.
Wagman, with Schiff Harding of San Francisco, represents Front Range pro hac vice.

Its lead counsel is Melissa Healy with Stoel Rives. 


Source: Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

“Intro 573-A is not in the best interest of the horses,” Dr. Cheever says; asks Mayor de Blasio to reconsider

Here is the full text of the insightful statement from Holly Cheever, DVM, an equine expert who has advised 15 municipalities and 2 states in OPPOSITION TO Intro. 573-A.

10151218_1076683402371526_3650848955117168478_n“January 22, 2016
To: Members of the New York City Council:

I wish to express my concerns about the latest proposal on what to do with your city’s controversial, inherently abusive, and anachronistic carriage horse tourist trade. In addition to being a shocking reneging of Mayor de Blasio’s campaign promises, it seems entirely impractical.

I am an equine veterinarian who has been testifying to this council since 1988 in efforts to get the carriage horses out of their inadequate stabling and their unsafe working environments. I have similarly advised approximately 15 municipalities and two states (Massachusetts and Florida), either to support a ban on such misuse of carriage horses or to promulgate proper regulations in appropriate environments—which New York City most emphatically is not—in order to ensure the well-being of the horses.

The current proposal is to confine the industry to Central Park, to restrict the equine population to a large herd of 75 with 68 operating carriages, and to build appropriate stabling to house this huge population. I confess to being shocked that the Central Park Commission is entertaining this proposal, because of the commission’s long entrenched refusal to give up any space to this enterprise. Although this proposal solves one area of equine misuse by getting them off the streets so that they no longer will share the roadways with crowded vehicular traffic, myriad other problems persist, as follows:

· 75 horses, many of them draft breeds: this would be a huge herd for such a small area as Central Park, and if 68 carriages are to be employed, they will create overcrowding and congestion in Park roadways that seriously impact alternate uses of the Park by its visitors, taking up a disproportionate amount of space that park enthusiasts might want for other purposes

· The odor from such a huge herd and its stabling/paddock areas would offend Park users who come for other purposes, especially in hot and humid weather. Not all city dwellers find “farm” odors appealing

· Housing: does the Park truly want to designate such a large percentage of its acreage to this one industry? The proposed stall size of 100 square feet is not adequate for draft breeds—14 x 14 square feet is the preferred size for these animals. I hope it is obvious that the current system of housing horses on 2nd and 3rd floors is completely unacceptable due to the risks to the horses if ever an evacuation is necessary. Therefore, all stalls must be on the ground floor, necessitating a huge stable area if 75 horses are to be housed humanely and safely. The proposed stable for this huge population will require fire-sprinkler systems, state-of-the-art ventilation systems, grain and hay storage, and waste disposal for enormous volumes of soiled bedding and manure. This cannot help but impact the Park’s multiple uses, and will constitute an extraordinary expense

· Turn-out, i.e. paddocks of adequate size to permit the DAILY opportunity for all horses to leave their restrictive housing for exercise and comfort with compatible herd mates, so essential to equine physiological and psychological well-being. The need for this turn-out is essential, and will commit even more of the Park’s limited acreage to this one malodorous industry

· Although the horses will no longer be threatened by vehicular traffic on their park-limited routes, there is always the risk of spooking with any equine animal, and the Park always has large volumes of visitors who could potentially be severely injured by a runaway horse and carriage, especially since so many of the drivers have historically been proven to be inexpert in proper equine management and capable of poor judgement in handling both the horses and their customers

· Even though the horses will not be as directly exposed to the pollution they inhale in their nose-to-tailpipe life on the streets, please note that even before they were forced out of their confinement to the Park in the early 1980’s (or the medallion-owners would be forced to surrender their medallions,) an unpublished study by Dr. Jeffie Roszel (veterinary pathologist) in 1985 revealed that the horses even then had evidence of lung damage from their exposure to exhaust fumes (personal communication 1989.)

In conclusion, I do not support this proposal as it is not in the best interest of the horses, nor a practical use for an inappropriately large area of the Park. I ask Mayor de Blasio to reconsider his abandonment of his campaign promise in order to pander to the carriage horse industry. We are in the 21st century—time to let this anachronism go!


Holly Cheever, DVM

Member, Leadership Council of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association

Vice president, NY State Humane Association”

Fire Destroys Barn at Old Friends Farms


“The horses in the barn got out without a scratch and everyone is all right, and that’s all that matters.”

GEORGETOWN, Ky. (WKYT) – Fire officials are investigating the cause of a late night barn fire in Scott County.

old+farmGeorgetown Scott County Fire Departments responded to a fire Friday night in one of the barns at Old Friends Farms, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility located in Georgetown.

We’re told by fire officials that two horses, Alphabet Soup and Archie, were both in the barn when the fire started. Old Friends officials say both were safely evacuated. Scott County fire officials report one firefighter was injured fighting the fire after he slid on ice. However, the say he’s expected to be okay.

Fire officials say a volunteer for Old Friends was the first person to discover the fire. They say she and her husband called authorities and safely removed the horses from the barn.

Despite the barn being a total loss, Old Friends president Michael Blowen praised fire crews after dealing with the harsh elements while extinguishing the fire.

“And we’re grateful for all of their help today.” said Blowen. “The horses in the barn got out without a scratch and everyone is all right, and that’s all that matters.”

Old Friends Farms houses recently repatriated Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem, however, officials say the prized horse was recently moved to another barn on the farm.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help raise money to build a new barn. You can find the page here:

Plan to Hunt Hundreds of Wild Burros in Arizona Suspended

Story bas published in The Phoenix News Times

“we have to be hard, we have to say extreme things to get things done.”

After causing an outcry among animal lovers with a plan to hunt hundreds of wild burros in the Black Mountain Herd Management Area, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to table the proposal temporarily.

Wild Burros in BLM holding ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Wild Burros in BLM holding ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The vote came at the end of a long and passion-filled public meeting during which local residents and board members debated Supervisor Steve Moss’ recent two-pronged — and arguably illegal — proposal: Agenda Item 31.

Moss proposed that if the Bureau of Land Management fails to reduce the size of the burro population in the management area to 817 animals by the end of the fiscal year, the county would either “Seek legislation authorizing state agencies to issue hunting permits . . . or pursue litigation to compel the BLM to comply with the management plan.”

“The BLM is not adequately maintaining the herd size, and it’s causing some adverse affects,” Moss said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Mohave County, under Arizona law, has absolutely no ability to do anything with the burros. We can’t even touch them if they’re killed on the roadway.”

There are 1,400 to 1,800 burros in the 1.1-million-acre area, about 1,000 more animals than the federal management plan calls for, and Moss said he was concerned about roadway safety, environmental damage, and other economic problems caused by the exploding burro population — the BLM estimates that the burro population can double every four years if left unchecked.

espite raising alarms about shooting hundred of animals with his proposal, Moss was clear that at least as of now, “no one is [actually] advocating going out there and shooting burros.” As many speakers pointed out, including Moss himself, the county has no authority to institute a hunt. It’s a directive that would require federal laws be amended.

But that being said, he added, if the status quo is allowed to continue, something catastrophic is going to happen and the local or federal government could be forced “to do something inhumane.”

Moss and many others said they were frustrated that even though the burros are not native to the area and therefore have no significant natural predators, the county can do little more than sit back and watch the population explode.

Prior to 1971, the state-managed wild horse and burros — most of the animals were abandoned or set loose by miners or other early European settlers — but following the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 they became the BLM’s responsibility.

For years the BLM has attempted to curb population growth by rounding up wild burrows and holding them in pens until they can be adopted, but supply has always exceeded demand – millions of taxpayer dollars are spent caring for the thousands of burros waiting to be adopted, one speaker at Tuesday’s meeting pointed out.

Amber Cargile with the Arizona BLM says that while the agency is actively looking into using fertility drugs or other creative solution to curb burro population growth, it’s important to remember that the agency only has “two tools in [its] toolbox” under federal law: fertility drugs and adoption.

“Any time you have a parcel of land, the challenge is finding the balance between having protected population, protecting native wildlife, and to support the economic needs of the local community,” she says. “We’re concerned and we care and [the burro issue] has had our attention for a long time.”

That the BLM cares and is trying was apparently not enough reassurance for most at the meeting, and many advocated greater action be taken.

Some suggested fixing broking fences by roadways, while other called for all males to be castrated or for wolves and big cats to be introduced as predators. Most were okay with some private-public partnership being part of the solution, but some invoked the spirit of the Sagebrush rebellion and said the only way progress will be made is if the federal government turns over all land to the state.

“I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg to a much larger issue: an overreaching, abusive, and mismanaging branch of the federal government,” one man said.

Trying to get BLM to do their job is a waste of paper, they’re going to claim they don’t have the funding, and it’s very likely they don’t – the federal government has been very active in taking peoples’ money. I know something has to be done, and I don’t like the thought of the burro being killed, but what are we going to do?” said one woman.

Another woman noted that none of the solutions up until now have worked, leaving only one option left: “going out there and shooting them.” Problem is, she continued, “That’s also a solution that the public is going to be highly, highly against.”

“Instead of making inflammatory statements about hunting and killing our beloved burros, I would urge our board and county to instead work cooperatively with the BLM,” another speaker said.

Horse advocates across the country can breathe a sigh of relief because at the end of the meeting, the board voted to do just that. Moss motioned to table his own proposal, admitting the he only proposed a hunt to get attention for the issue.

He suggested instead that the county organize a meeting with representatives from the BLM, Fish and Game, and the two other counties struggling with exploding burro populations: La Paz and Yuma.

“We’ve had two resolutions about this in the last few years and no one has paid attention, which just goes to prove that if you want peoples’ attention, you have to shock them, scare them because asking ‘pretty please’ and sending them a nice note doesn’t do the trick.”

In the future, he told his fellow board members: “we have to be hard, we have to say extreme things to get things done.”

It’s not clear that advocates for the burros feel the same way about his tactic…(Click for Graphs, Charts and Photos)

BLM Photo Documents 72 Wild Burros but Submits Written Report of 1,378?

Black Mountain Wild Burro Herd Management Area: Analysis of Bureau of Land Management Aerial Census

April and October 2014 Flights

Independent Study by Undisclosed Environmental Researchers

Four Burros – Black Mountain Herd Management Area – BLM Photo

Four Burros – Black Mountain Herd Management Area – BLM Photo

The following independent review of the Bureau of Land Management’s 2014 burro population census aerial flight was completed using information, photographs, and other documentation that was collected through a formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the raw data of the BLM’s 2014 population census aerial flights. The aerial census data documentation over the nine days of flights fails to adequately document the BLM’s wild burro population count.


This report is an analysis of the data, pictures, and hand-written notes from the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Arizona – BLM Colorado River District – Kingman Field Office wild burro census completed in two segments, between April 25-30th and October 6-9th of 2014 in the Black Mountain Herd Management Area. Over the nine days in flight only 5% (rounded) of the wild burros that were allegedly counted were photographed. In fact, the majority of the photos taken during the flight were of big horn sheep and trophy buck deer and duplicate burro photos and landscape features rather than of wild burros counted. There were four persons in the helicopter in each flight – pilot and 3 observers – see flight data for observers’ names and government affiliation (BLM & AZGFD & NPS). The aerial census over the nine days fails to adequately document the BLM’s purported wild burro population count. It was also noted by examination of the photos that the majority of the photos were taken of the wild burros while being chased by the helicopter.

 Data Summary

Summary of independent review of BLM aerial flight raw data:

Total Photos 54

Total Burros Counted in Photos 72

Total Photos of Burros (not counting duplicates) 20

Total Number Duplicate Photos (that were of duplicate burros groups) 15

Total Photos of “Other” 19

– landscape 10

– trophy deer 6

– big-horn sheep 3

BLM flight notes show they counted 1,378 wild burros (1,148 total adults and 230 total foals)

Nine days flying in 2014

Miles flown and time in air (see BLM notes)

All burros were reported as inside HMA except on flight day 4/27/2014 (27 adults and 4 foals) and on flight day 4/28/2014 (17 adults and 1 foal).

The majority of all flights reported at 0 – 30% vegetation concealment with occasional 70-80% in Juniper tree areas and “open” or “broken” visual field and rarely “treed” (see data)

 Flight Data

Arizona – BLM Colorado River District – Kingman Field Office

Black Mountain Herd Management Area

Survey Method: Simultaneous Double-Count

Helicopter – Bell L1

Elevations flown: 2,000-3,000 feet (Elevation at nearby Kingman AZ is 3,336 feet)

April 25, 27, 28, 29 & 30 of 2014

Flight Hours 24.7

Miles Flown: 2061 (plus additional ferry miles)

Conditions: Ranged from good to very good – Winds ranged from light to high

October 6, 7, 8, & 9 of 2014

Flight Hours 27.2

Miles Flown: Not provided

Conditions: Very Good Overall; Ranging from Good to Excellent; Light Rain One Day; Light Winds

No date/time stamp on any photos. FOIA requester was told that date/time was not done and not required by BLM.

The aerial census included the pilot and three additional observers for each flight date. The observers included BLM employees, Arizona Game and Fish employees and National Park Service employees (see flight notes).

Planned Speed 55-60 knots (63-70 MPH)

See aerial flight maps provided via FOIA – no explanation was provided with them.


The Fort Collins Science Center who guides the BLM’s aerial population procedures states, “Because population estimates drive nearly all management decisions pertaining to wild horses and burros, accuracy is important.”

“The accuracy and precision of current wild horse survey methods have not been rigorously tested.”

The BLM Instruction Memorandum (IM) establishes program guidance and policy for inventorying and estimating wild horse population numbers to supply the managers and the public with scientifically supportable and defensible population estimates of wild horse and burro populations. More than ever before, Field Managers and WH&B specialists are challenged to base WH&B management decisions on accurate and credible population estimates. This was not accomplished with this survey and the true and accurate wild burro population was not sufficiently documented for the Black Mountain HMA and therefore is very much in question.


Complete data received via FOIA is available upon request. The aerial census documentation over the nine days fails to adequately document the BLM’s wild burro population count.

Click (HERE) to Download Compete Report