Horse News

OIG Launches Review of BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program Amid Escalating Controversy

By: American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

Now they use Helicopters as the weapon of choice

WASHINGTON, D.C. July 27, 2010 – The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), which is supported by a coalition of more than 40 public interest, historic preservation and horse advocacy organizations, today supplemented the ongoing Department of Interior Office of Inspector General (OIG) review of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s wild horse and burro program. AWHPC filed a complaint outlining the BLM’s negligence in the conduct of the Tuscarora roundup in northeastern Nevada.

At least 25 of the 822 wild horses captured to date in that roundup have perished, the majority of them from dehydration-related complications. Most of the dead are very young horses, including foals aged 2-5 months.

The OIG launched a program-wide evaluation of the BLM’s wild horse and burro management in May.

“The BLM repeatedly claimed that the Tuscarora roundup required ‘extreme diligence,’ yet the agency’s actions reflect just the opposite,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC Campaign Director. “From failing to manage conditions on the range to avert an emergency for horses, to launching a desert roundup in the heat of summer when foals are young and vulnerable, to leaving dehydrated horses unmonitored overnight with free access to water, the BLM’s conduct exemplifies the fundamental failures of this broken federal program.”

Seven horses died within the first 24 hours of the roundup from dehydration-related complications — including colic, brain swelling and “water intoxication” — after being stampeded by helicopter for eight miles in 85 degree heat into capture pens, then left unattended overnight. The BLM found the horses dead and dying when it returned to the capture site in the morning. Water intoxication occurs when dehydrated horses are given free access to water and over-drink. All of the horses who died were under age 8, including 2-5 month old foals.

After the horses died, BLM claimed that this routine removal of “excess” horses was now an emergency rescue due to allegedly extreme water shortages on the range. Ironically, Roy said, the emergency water shortage relates only to horses and not to the hundreds of cows and the wildlife that also inhabit the range and have access to water.

The AWHPC complaint included a statement by Bruce Nock, Ph.D., tenured faculty at the Washington University School of Medicine and expert on the physiological effects of stress on animals regarding the dangers of a summer roundup.

“[I]t may take less than 20 minutes of moderate exercise to raise a horse’s body temperature to dangerous levels . . . Add the sympathetic nervous system activation triggered by being chased by a helicopter in summer heat and you have the potential for real problems … deadly problems,” wrote Dr. Nock wrote. “But the high ambient temperatures of summer aren’t the only problem. The year’s crop of foals are only months old during their first summer. . . . [E]arly development is a fragile time when stress/trauma can have a devastating impact that can last a life time.”

Dr. Nock previously wrote a report for AWHPC on the traumatic effects of helicopter roundup and capture on wild horses:

The Tuscarora roundup continues. The agency intends to use helicopters to roundup 1,548 wild horses and permanently removal of 1,137-1,197 of these animals from the Owyhee, Little Humboldt and Rock Creek HMAs in Elko County, Nevada over the next several weeks.

AWHPC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.


The Legal Voice of the Amercian Equine

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9 replies »

  1. Yes and we have yet to receive the total of horses that died or were shot on the desert where they stood suffering from Heat stroke..there is an autopsy showing the high levels of lactic acid in these horses that prove that..not that they died from drought conditions..the BLM is using the lack of water angle so they do not have to report these deaths as gather related…truly a method to their…madness. The deadliest massacre in the history of wild horse roundups…There are also pictures floating around that have not been made public. And anyone destroying those pictures should be prosecuted and receive the fu;ll penalty of the law, I don’t care who they are.


    • So, who actually owns the Fallon property? There’s been photo documentation of several horses dying or dead on this person’s land, and no legal investigation? I don’t care if the BLM has told this person he/she is absolved from any kind of legal issue. The fact is that this atrocity is till happening on this person’s property and needs tighter scrutiny.
      Can anyone who’s more familiar with this area find a name and address that we can post online?


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