Behind Locked Gates the BLM Acts with Total Secrecy and Zero Transparency
For the last 11 days, the BLM has been trying to make it seem that there is nothing we need to know about the captive wild horses form the Calico Mountains who are currently being held in a closed door feedlot in Fallon, Nevada. Day after day, since April 10th, the agency’s Gather Daily Updates have contained essentially the same message:
“Most stallions and weaned colts are doing well and gaining weight. Mares from Black Rock East, Black Rock West and most Granite horses continue to do well. Mares from Warm Springs and Calico are improving. Mares that have been isolated for poor condition are gaining weight. No miscarriages occurred. Mares are actively foaling and new foals are born daily.”
In the absence of relevant details, observers have no choice but to read between the lines. On Friday, April 16th, we learned that the BLM had started to castrate all male horses aged four and under. It’s hard to believe that the gelding has progressed without incident, but the BLM has been mum. What little we know about how the colts and young stallions are being castrated comes from the report of Dr. Eric Davis, who has inspected the Fallon facility on two different occasions, on behalf of the Humane Society of the U.S.
In his February 13th report, Dr. Davis said that BLM veterinarian Dr. Richard Sanford uses “an ultra short acting paralytic agent,” succinylcholine, to immobilize the horses “prior to the administration of a xylazine and ketamine combination, which causes unconsciousness and analgesia.”
According to Restraint and Handling of Wild and Domestic Animals, by noted veterinarian Dr. Murray E. Fowler:
“Succinylcholine is the most rapidly acting immobilizing agent available. Succinylcholine and other similar agents have been used extensively in wild animal immobilization in the past, but newer, non-paralyzing agents have supplanted them. . .
Animals appear to be bewildered by the whole experience. Psychological stress is associated with being unable to fight or flee–the normal alarm response.”
So in addition to the residual physical pain of the castration procedure, the young Calico mustang males are experiencing profound emotional stress from their inability to control what is happening to them.
Have the gelding operations resulted in any complications? We don’t know. Have any horses had to be resuscitated because they stopped breathing? Dr. Fowler warns that “cessation of respiration is a natural result of succinylcholine immobilization. Procedures should not be attempted without resuscitation equipment available.” And indeed, Dr. Davis’s report confirms that such equipment is on standby for “horses that became apneic (stopped breathing). Apparently, this does happen occasionally using the described anesthesia protocol, and there have been a very small number of deaths occur.”
If any of the castrations have been anything but routine, the BLM isn’t admitting it. All it will say, as it did today, is that “the gelding of four years and younger horses is underway and will continue until completed.”
Equine Advocacy Examiner, Maureen Harmonay
Maureen Harmonay has been a passionate equine advocate since the 1970s, when she bred and raced thoroughbreds and worked as a thoroughbred bloodstock agent. More recently, she has spoken out on behalf of horses in her blog, and in her Boston Animal Advocacy column. Maureen is an avid supporter of the efforts of Americans Against Horse Slaughter, and she is the proud “mom” of a retired Premarin mare, Hayley, whom she adopted from Bay State Equine Rescue in Oakham, MA.