Horse News

Wild Horses Forced into a Stampede of Death

by Las Vegas Channel 8 Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp and Photojournalist Matt Adams

A massive roundup of wild horses in Northern Nevada turned out to be one of the deadliest in the history of the wild horse program

Contrary to assurances from the Bureau of Land Management, dozens of horses were killed during the Calico roundup. What’s more, the horses are still dying inside government corrals because of injuries suffered during their frightening run across tough terrain.

American taxpayers shelled out close to $1 million to capture 1,900 horses on the Calico range, even though a federal judge told BLM it was a bad idea.

Millions more will be spent in roundups planned all year long by the BLM. Critics of the program ask, for what?

If a private citizen were to kill dozens wild horses, that person would go to prison. Yet the government has been killing mustangs for years, with the promise that it’s all for the horses own good.

“We are the Bureau of Land Management — not the Bureau of Wildlife, not the Bureau of Horses, not the Bureau of Cows. It’s the land,” said BLM District Manager Gene Seidlitz.

If BLM officials seem a bit testy these days, it’s not hard to see why. The Calico roundup has galvanized public attention. A federal lawsuit tried to stop the roundup. More than 10,000 protest letters were generated. Demonstrations were staged across the country. But BLM went ahead with it anyway, even in the face of scattered threats that prompted the presence of armed security.

At a staging area in the town of Gerlach, BLM staffers told a group of visitors how the gather operation was, right before explaining that the whole thing was being conducted on private land, which allowed BLM to control who got to watch the gather, and when.

Everyone, reporters included, was escorted by helpful BLM Public Relations staffers who explained during the visit what was permissible as horses were captured and then herded into trailers.

At the other end of the operation is the Broken Arrow Holding Facility in Fallon, the place where all of the Calico horses were sent. It too is on private land, meaning access can be strictly controlled.

There are no windbreaks and no coverings. The horses have no protection from the wind and cold, not even the one’s born in the corral.

The real danger, from a public relations standpoint, is that visitors might record video like this — an older mare, hobbled during the roundup, tries again and again to stand, but can’t. It finally gives up. A BLM staffer suggested the photographer should stop shooting.

Even more emotional was an incident involving an 8-month-old colt. Like 1,900 other horses, it had been herded by helicopter over miles of rough terrain. In the corral, it could barely stand because of what the vet called hoof trauma. Basically, the hooves fell off, and despite efforts to save the horse, it was euthanized after several agonizing days.

“That’s unfortunate, but the percentage that died due to the gather itself and not affiliated with Fallon is still a low percentage,” said Seidlitz.

BLM admits there will always be some risk to mustangs during a gather. After all, they are chased by helicopter over many miles.

Calico is covered with sharp volcanic rock — tough on hooves and legs of galloping horses, especially during the dead of winter when rocks are covered with snow.

Sedlitz said the snow would cushion the impact for the horses, though a federal court advised a winter roundup could be deadly. The court was right.

BLM typically expects a death rate of up to .5, or one half of one percent. As of Friday morning 48 of the Calico horses had died, another 30 foals aborted after pregnant mares were hunted across miles of rangeland. This is a loss rate of 4-percent, more than eight times what BLM expected.

BLM says nearly all of those deaths were the result of the horses being in poor shape when they came in. Yet at the corrals in Fallon, there is clear evidence of otherwise healthy horses suffering with leg injuries.

BLM has painted a picture of the Calico horses as thin, sickly, starving, but even the untrained eye sees horses that mostly look strong and healthy.

John O’Neill, the manager at Fallon agreed. “There has been a very small percentage that are on a scale of about two on our body condition scale.”

In spite of the winter conditions, and the fact they live in a harsh, sparse region to begin with, the overwhelming percentage of the horses the I-Team saw were not in bad shape. Yet BLM gathered them all under the premise they might be worse off in the summer.

Critics note that mustangs are wild animals and aren’t supposed to all look like show horses.

“We do have some reports that some have been thin — some very thin — but some good,” said Seidlitz.

BLM was to begin its next roundup this week in Eastern Nevada, but after another lawsuit was filed in federal court to stop it, it was canceled. BLM said it did not want to start a roundup during foaling season because that would cause a lot of lost foals.

Critics of the program say this is a weak excuse since BLM it’s always foaling season — horses give birth all year long.

The one thing that is always consistent about BLM is its inconsistency, which is why so many Americans simply do not trust anything that is said about wild horses.

Click HERE for the I-Team Video

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15 replies »

  1. More BLM double-speak!

    “We are the Bureau of Land Management (At least the man knows where to report for work!) – we are not the Bureau of Wildlife (Technically correct, but the BLM website cites “A Shared Responsibility” of “partnering” and “coordinating” with the USFS/USF&WS. File under: “Plausible Deniability”.), we are not the Bureau of Cows (Switched for obvious reasons, but you ARE the Bureau of Allowing Public Land to be Destroyed by Cows and Getting Paid for It. File under: “Guilt by Association”.), not the Bureau of Horses (File under: “Has the Man Ever Visited the BLM Website?”.).


    (File under: “I’m Flabbergasted!; Subsection – The Big Lie Theory”.)


  2. Thank you, George. It becomes more and more obvious that the roundups are not for any reason that we can actually grasp at this point. The wild horse and burro populations are in Sharp Decline and the whole manner of mass removal for population control is no longer allowable. Be done BLM.
    Back off the horses and burros and let go. We do not want your death machines and killer contractors near the wild ones anymore. The processing at Fallon will be illegal preparation of wild horses for long term holding which itself is illegal and about to be ended. Stop now. Back off. mar


  3. Proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that they should not be in charge of the horses and burros from their own lips! Someone take that snip, just that little part, from this and play, or just read it, it at the advisory board – 3 minutes worth, over and over.

    And if BLM are such smart horse experts, been doing this since the 1970s for God’s sake, you would think they had learned something by now. They are just now figuring out that foaling season is not a good time to run horses or that dead of winter is not a good time to run horses? And I think George Knapp is incorrect – there is in nature a foaling season, however incorrect timing of PZP has messed with that part of mother nature. Geez, BLM vets and employees cannot even read the instructions that come with the PZP?

    And then to put wet sweaty horses in conditions that they themselves would not allow an adopter, that animal humane groups would consider animal abuse – hey, Obama, how is this looking for you these days? You’ve got very little time and its ticking to get my vote next time – as it stands I’ll be campaigning for anyone else. I truly hope you will do something and change my mind.

    And “run” – Sue Cattoor promised, in writing that the horses are trotted, slowly until they get to the chute area and only .5% death – Sue C. the mighty liar! More like the mighty profiteer – raking in our tax dollars and laughing at us all the way to the bank (same for the private land owner that BLM is leasing to hold the horses), like she gives a fig about the welfare of the horses, like this is GOOD for the horses? Good for her lifestyle I’d say.

    I’d like to see a comparison of what these land owners are getting, for the fencing and per month. Did we pay for all that fencing and now both guys get to keep it when the horses are gone? Better not be, they better have paid for that themselves, and the lease better not be more than $1.32 per mare colt pair, otherwise I want my money back from the welfare ranchers, who are nothing but the root of this horse thievery. They need to give back those 20 million acres, plus some for interest, and yesterday is not soon enough – period. I hear some of them say, under false phony names in the blogs that they are not the enemy, they want the wild horses – well silence from them makes them an enemy – speak up, organize “Cowboys for Mustangs”, take the stage, or get the heck out of Dodge! This is a critical situation; I take back my previous excuses for you. I will be only buying beef from either non-public lands grazers or from South America from this day forward! But you don’t care – you’re EXPORTING your beef anyway, after we taxpayers subsidized you $5 million a year in direct and indirect subsidies, year after year after year. Just another bag of profiteers laughing at us all the way to the bank, from a failed socialist program, aka “welfare ranching”. But wait, isn’t socialism supposed to benefit the people who pay for it? What a scam! That guy that just went to prison, who scamed all that money from investers, ain’t got nothin over you guys.


  4. You said that right!!! I still say Obama has it out for our ponies. If you remember your history the U.S Government’s plan was to kill all the mustangs so we would not have a chance against the white man. The way i see it Obama is Custer reincarnated. But Obama don’t have any red blood to round up now he is after our ponies again. Wouldn’t it be nice if tomorrow when they start the processing the mustangs get out of the pens and run free with white blood drippin’ from their feet.


  5. No,the BLM is the doom group that shouldn;’t be allowed to exist.The wild horses DO NOT NEED THE BLM AT ALL EVER.never mind the wild horses you the BLM don’t do anything for them except destroy them cripple them starve them,I could go on and on.The horses are quite able to take care of themselves they’ve been doing it for quite some time,they don’t need man interferring in Gods plan for them.He made preditors and prey for that reason,between the weather,mountain lions and other causes such as old age,the size of the bands are regulated without man being in the equasiion.The wild horses are a very important part of our History and heritage.As they were used in the civil war of the States,pony express(mail delivery)the settlers used them to build this United States and populate it.So you should respect these magnificent horses BLM not destroy them to the point of extinction.Give them back their land,quit giving it to cattlemen,oil and gas or God knows who,give it back to the wild horses and leave them alone to roam free as they were meant to.Butt out BLM go to a country that could careless about their wild animals,we don’t need you the horses,Burro’s and all the animals DO NOT NEED YOU,ride off in your helicopters and leave Gods creations ALONE.God knows what your doing to these animals,Cloud’s band and all the bands deserve to be respected and to run free on the public ranges they were intended to do!!


  6. Just received the final EA and notice the BLM will roundup 50 wild horses along Hgw. 93 starting about March 15 . They will use trapping. They have postponed the Eagle roundup because of pregnant mares but they have no regard for these that may be pregnant although trapping is less stressful. 3 accidents have occured–big deal. They could have put up lights and fences but that would have made too much sense.


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