by R.T. Fitch
Cloud, the world’s most famous wild horse, was released from the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) holding pens on September 09, 2009. Cloud’s family was ripped to pieces by the BLM leaving him with only half of his band’s population and all of the mares chemically sterilized, for the next two years, with PZP. There is little hope that Cloud’s bloodline will be able to survive this brutal and unwarranted attack perpetrated by the very federal agency that is charged, by law, with protecting our wild horses and burros, the BLM.
Now that Cloud has been released, independent observers have verified that he and what is left of his band have returned to their lush pastures in the upper altitudes of the Pryor Mountains, but there’s a rub; Cloud and almost all of the adult horses are footsore and lame from the brutal helicopter drive down the mountainside followed by the return climb back up. The babies
of the other bands are in worse condition with several of them barely able to walk, leaving them open to possible predation and death.
It appears that the BLM’s ill-conceived and grossly mismanaged round up was not enough of a travesty, in its own right, but the very techniques used cause extreme risk to the safety and welfare of our much maligned wild horses. Chasing horses, with a helicopter, down a mountainside in 95+ heat for over 10 miles is by no means humane treatment and reeks of lack of common sense.
Just a little background; at the beginning of the round-up a press day was held, the temperatures reached into the upper 90’s and the BLM pulled the plug on the day’s operations as it was “too hot” to push the horses. Next day the press cameras disappeared, the temps shot up into the upper 90’s and the BLM pushed bands of wild horses both further and harder. On September 8th they pushed a band so far and so hard that one of the horses became “tied-up” and in an effort to hide the fact the BLM ushered the remaining independent observers off from the observation bluff so that they could not witness the exhausted horses being driven into the pen. That same day they, also, pressed a distant band for so long and so hard that a foal and her mother could not keep up and were left behind and abandoned. That night several foals were lame and footsore in the BLM holding facility. Of those two bands driven to exhaustion only one horse was slated for removal, so what was the point? Why torture these animals for no reason other than to pump the mares full of PZP to ensure that there will be NO babies for the next 2-3 years and beyond? These are questions that need to be answered.
On September 11th the BLM banned Humane Observer Elyse Gardener from checking on the status of the remaining 57 horses being held in captivity at their Britton Springs holding facility. Within that sad group of 57 are older horses that should have never been removed from the herd as they bear the knowledge and herd’s store of information on water and winter food locations and are virtually unadoptable at their advanced ages. Those captives also include Conquistador and his band ripped out of the Custer National Forest, never to return to their native home (this was to be a selective removal not a “total” remove operation). Without agreed access being granted to our observer there is no way that we can verify the health, safety and welfare of these creatures or even if they are still present and accounted for. What would be the BLM’s “Mustangate” motives for this last breach of trust and honesty? What could they be hiding and why do they think that they can continue to operate with total immunity from the laws and the wishes of the American people?
These are valid questions that should be asked of your federal representatives, the director of the BLM, the Secretary of the Interior Department and the President of the United States. Please, continue to ask them “Why?”
(Photographs courtesy of Terry Fitch)
Update – New video just put together by the Cloud Foundation!
Video by Sandra Elmore
Slide show by R.T. Fitch
Additional “Mustangate” coverage at Horseback Magazine