(The News as We See It) by R.T. Fitch
Advocates Catch Feds and Dave Cattoor with their Pants Down
While law makers and the American public had their eyes concentrated on the much contested Silver King round up in Nevada the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) along with helicopter contractor David Cattoor where conducting an unpublished and unannounced secret wild horse gather at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge (Sheldon).
Plaintiff in several suits against the BLM for lack of transparency and violation of First Amendment Rights, Laura Leigh , was tipped off that there was illicit activity taking place at Sheldon as many roads were closed due to a “wild horse gather”.
On September 22, 2010 Ms. Leigh discussed this situation with wild horse advocate Leslie Peeples, who was already on the road to visit another wild horse herd, and Ms. Peeples immediately changed plans and headed to Sheldon to investigate as no such “gather” was indicated in any public records.
On the morning of Sept. 23, 2010 Ms. Peeples phoned the Lakeview office of the USFWS and when asked if a wild horse gather was being conducted she was told, “yes”.
Ms. Peeples headed out to Sheldon on back roads when she encountered an oncoming semi-truck with a livestock trailer being towed behind it at a reasonable speed. Ms. Peeples intended to ask the driver where the stampede was taking place so she pulled her car over to the side of the road and stepped out into her lane of traffic to flag the driver down for information. Upon seeing this, according to filed court documents, the truck driver aimed for the center of the road, speeded up and missed running over Ms. Peoples by only inches.
“It is my opinion based on clear observations at the time that, had I not moved out of the way, the truck would have hit me,” stated Ms. Peeples, “As it turns out, the truck which passed by me was loaded with, what I am informed and believe to be wild horses from the Sheldon gather.”
Photos verify that said truck was owned by BLM helicopter stampede contractor, David Cattoor. One photo was taken by Ms. Peeples at Sheldon and the other by Terry Fitch at Twin Peaks. They both match.
Subsequently, upon heading further up the road, Ms. Peeples was barred access to public lands and told that the stampede was not published because “We like to keep things low and quiet”. Likewise when Ms. Peeples inquired about viewing the horses at the holding facility she was told that it was on private land and that she would not be allowed.
Upon departing Sheldon and with the resumption of cell service Ms. Peeples did make contact with the USFWS Lakeview Regional Office (Lakeview Office) and spoke with a Mr. Paul Steblien who confirmed that a wild horse roundup was taking place and that 400 horses would be stampeded. Further information relayed by Mr. Steblien indicated that the horses would be transferred to the Dufferina Refuge Headquarters and that 250 of the captured horses would forever lose their freedom while 150 would be “vasectomized” and “ovarectomized” and returned to the refuge. Mr. Steblien did agree to escort Ms. Peeples into the gather area the following day.
Ms. Peeples then headed to the Dufferina Headquarters to further search for information regarding this secret stampede. Unfortunately no one was available at the office so she continued down the road to locate a place to take her dog for a walk.
Once outside of her car she began to notice skeletal horse remains scattered on the ground, as she began to investigate and walk further away from the road the bones became more numerous until she came upon a freshly dug pit. Nearby was what appeared to be another pit that was freshly covered with numerous bones scattered throughout the area.
“There were horse bones scattered everywhere. I photographed what I observed…”, Peeples said.
As she headed back to her car she heard horses whinnying. She walked towards the direction of the calls and discovered a holding facility with approximately 250 horses confined. There was no signage indicating area restrictions. Likewise, she witnessed parked in the area what she believed was the same truck that tried to run her over, earlier. There were no humans at the facility.
While walking back up the hill towards her car she could hear the roar of helicopter blades which as she proceeded and crested the hill she observed the helicopter hovering just a few dozen feet above the roof of her car. Once her physical presence was reveled the chopper pilot aggressively turned the aircraft in her direction and hovered directly over her with little more than 30 feet of safe clearance.
“At this point the helicopter was so close I could see the pilot’s face and his facial features appeared angry”, said Peeples.
As the unsettled Ms. Peeples attempted to make her way to the car the aircraft continued his aggressive actions and orbited around her at an estimated distance of only 60 feet. Even while in the car and attempting to drive away the chopper continued to harass her until she stopped and shot another picture which, then, caused the aircraft to depart the area.
Ms. Peeples pulled over to gather her composure and exited her vehicle for some fresh air only to have the chopper return, again, to harass her. Once more the camera proved to be an effective weapon in deterring the marauding helicopter.
The level of harassment did not let up as soon Ms. Peeples was accosted by a USFWS Ranger and the following day her “escort” was canceled due to her unexpected presence on public land the day before.
Ms. Peeples has and will submit to the court her video and photographic documentation of the events laid out in this brief article.