HOUSTON, (Horseback) – In the sometimes bewildering world of the federal Bureau of Land management, things get confusing – even confounded annoying.
Such was the case when Horseback Magazine began to investigate the deaths of 11 horses we found on a comprehensive report released by the Washington office on fatalities during the agency’s wild horse “gathers” since the beginning of last year.
The report stated the horses died in July, 2009, at a place called Conant Creek, Wyoming when 349 animals were captured by the agency. In fact, officials in charge of the area say that yes, they did have a gather but statistics for what BLM terms the North Lander Complex, which includes Conant Creek, are vastly different from what Washington released..
According to North Lander records released Wednesday, 17 horses died, not the 11 Washington reported. Of the 17 dead equines, seven were foals. A helicopter was used in the roundup.
Besides the dead at Conant Creek, Washington reported that two horses died at Muskrat Basin, and one died at Rock Creek Mountain, while none died at Dishpan Butte. The North Lander report didn’t reveal locations. However, the Washington report only totals 14 horses when those locations are included.
As disturbing as the deaths are, an equally distressing statistic released in the North Lander records was revealed.
Herds captured from July 6, to July 21, at Conant Creek, Dishpan Butte, Rock Creek Mountain, and Muskrat Basis were all but wiped out. According to the records, the pre-capture herd size was 1,175 horses. After BLM wranglers did their work, only 365 horses were left to roam the vast area. The remainder was trucked to BLM holding facilities.
Critics have charged that the BLM captures of wild horses are so all consuming they are leaving the herds genetically bankrupt. Moreover, the agency administers anti-fertility drugs to many of the remaining horses after a capture leaving mares unable to breed for years after, if ever.
And rumors are persistent the BLM is making a concentrated attempt to wipe out wild horses to provide grazing land for western ranchers, a claim the BLM denies.
To add to the confusion sowed by BLM, reports have now surfaced that 11 horses did die in a July gather in Idaho.
In a detailed letter to Horseback Magazine David Rosenkrance, field manager of the Challis, Idaho, office spelled out how the horses ended their lives in a helicopter assisted roundup there. Yet the report released by Washington acknowledged only 1 death this year at Challis when 366 wild horses were captured, a direct conflict with the 11 admitted to in Rosenkrance’ letter.
Activist groups including the Animal Law Coalition, The Cloud Foundation, and the Equine Welfare Alliance have all called for an immediate moratorium on further roundups by the BLM pending Congressional hearings.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a former Colorado rancher, has thrown his full support behind the roundups and proposed seven holding facilities for wild horses in the Midwest and East which would serve as tourist attractions spotlighting this remnant of the old west – the wild horse.
Increasingly, according to a report in the Wednesday USA Today, the public is saying no.