Aerial Survey Reveals Twin Peaks Wild Horse Population Decimated

by Maureen Harmonay ~ Equine Advocacy Examiner ~ LIVE LINK

Equine Advocates Use Science Against BLM’s Bad Math

Cattle at Twin Peaks ~ Photo by Terry Fitch

A September 24th flyover survey of the California-Nevada Twin Peaks Herd Management Area by respected wildlife ecologist Craig Downer reveals that only about 265 wild horses remain in this 798,000-acre range in the wake of the recent BLM roundup, which captured 1638 horses.  Fourteen of those horses died in BLM custody or as a direct result of physical injuries or trauma sustained during their capture.

Mr. Downer’s conclusions are in stark contrast to the BLM’s own estimation of the remaining wild horse population at Twin Peaks, which it puts at 793.  As is shown in Mr. Downer’s chart of Supporting Population Data for this HMA, published yesterday by the Equine Welfare Alliance, BLM’s figures are “contradictory to the historic population data and viable reproductive rates.”

During his four-hour aerial reconnaisance over 133.3 miles of the Twin Peaks HMA in late September, Mr. Downer and his pilot actually observed 186 cattle but only seven wild horses, in two bands on the east side of the territory:

“One male-female pair and another group of five, composed of a stallion, three mares, and a colt.  They were located near rocky cliffs and had been grazing on grassy mesas in the higher reaches of the HMA.  They seemed to cling to these remote, rugged redoubts, which perhaps had permitted them to escape the helicopters that had so decimated their numbers.”

Ominously, Mr. Downer did not see even a single burro during his flight, leading to his conclusion that “the population could be dangerously low.”  The BLM reported on September 3rd that it had released only one of the 160 burros it had captured, but Mr. Downer maintains that “all burros should be returned (to the HMA) to ensure a minimal genetically viable population.”

In light of his findings, Mr. Downer is calling for the BLM to restore the wild horse population to 448 horses, a number that it has determined to be the low Appropriate Management Level (AML) for Twin Peaks.  To accomplish this, he is urging the BLM to release 187 wild horses and all of the 159 burros it had captured during the controversial six-week roundup.

Mr. Downer’s Report may be Downloaded (HERE)

46 comments on “Aerial Survey Reveals Twin Peaks Wild Horse Population Decimated

  1. This is devastating to hear the numbers of the Wild Horses that are left at Twin Peaks
    and only goes to show how the BLM has lied they are trying to exterminate the herd
    not keep them at a managable level. No big surprise to the folks following this story.
    Thank you to Mr. Downer for verifying the situation. Yes all the horses & remaining
    burros from the recent roundup should be returned to their land.
    The last round up should not have happened in the first place.
    I wish I could rewind history and fix what has been broken by the idiots of the BLM.

    Like

  2. This is an abomination of what BLM has done. I can only hope and pray that the court proceedings in NYC with the backing of several groups and most notably the ASPCA will at least put a temporary reprieve to the illegal decimation of horses and burros. Shame on the governement for not seeing that this has stopped. Shame on the cattleman and all their cronies for their own greed to use helicopters to impose a death sentence on one of our natural resourses our wild horses and burros.

    Like

  3. Thank you so much Craig. Your reports, findings and observations will (and actually are) be invaluable, priceless and critical to the cause, especially for litigation and as a historical database.

    I realize the the killers are idiots, but it is so sad that the numbers they pick out of their fat-head hats are so drastically WRONG! They scare the hell out of me that they lack so little competency and knowledge. Those poor wild equines.

    Like

  4. Thank you so much, Craig.
    The BLM deliberately falsifies the number of wild horses and burros IMO to manage them to extinction and to mislead the public.

    Like

  5. They released one burro. Why? What is their scientific logic for releasing one burro back to the wild?They couldn’t even release a pair of burros. Now if this doesn’t highlight their nonsensical protocols with no scientific support, I don’t know what does. And this law equally applies to the protection of wild burros. who are now on the brink of extinction. How does one get an animal listed on the endangered animal list? Not a single burro should be rounded up from this point forward. (and horses too, of course, but there really aren’t any burros left.

    Like

  6. Thank you Craig for the information, as horrible as it is. Another very sad story to tell and all that much more reason to fight those SOB’s for what they’re doing to our iconic and majestic wild horses!

    Like

  7. How can the BLM be allowed to continue with “managing” a national treasure when they use no science to guide their round ups? There is no accurate science with supposed damage to the range, no science that the horses are reproducing at 20% a year, no science that they are starve (oh, pardon me, the BLM always says they “could” starve sometime in the future), no science with actual, real numbers of horses on the range pre and post stampede, no science after the stampede when someone should be there with how many and which ones to release back to the wild, no science with leaving genetically viable numbers and structured family bands with all ages to pass on herd wisdom to future generations. Why are we entrusting the entire population of wild horses and burros to a man who was convicted of illegally capturing and selling wild horses to slaughter? And why does this man have more rights than our horses (and us) during the stampedes? And a no bid contract at that, which is against government policy.

    Next year is the 40th anniversary of the Wild Horse and Burro Act. How many horses and burros will be left a year from now?

    Like

  8. Wasn’t Salazar quoted as saying that wild horses and burros have no business on public lands?

    If true, the implications speak for themselves…

    Like

  9. Thanks, Craig. I believe the BLM has done post-removal surveys in the past, but don’t know if they have or will be doing one at Twin Peaks. If they do a flyover, it will be interesting to compare the reports.

    I sure wish they would accurately count cattle and grazing and browsing wildlife. Otherwise they’re comparing “apples to oranges” and not presenting a true picture of the impacts of various species on our public lands.

    Like

  10. What needs to be done is kick all of those idiots out of gov. and leave “ONE LONE JACKASS” to roam around Washington. I have no words to describe how disgusting and vile these so called “officials” are.
    This country is in serious trouble since it is quite evident American citizens have no more voice than the horses or burros. How many thousands upon thousands of people have voiced their concerns about this and no one will listen. This is indicative of a far more reaching problem. We as American citizens are dangerously close to losing our country. So the wild horses and burros go….so will we…

    Like

  11. I have never seen a generation of people who are so willing to collectively turn their faces away from the problems that beset us all this last decade. How many people live in the States, live in the UK and elsewhere in the world? How many of us are there fighting for right and justice…hell it’s so pitifully few that we all know each other by name!

    Like

  12. This is how they get as many off the range as possible. This is Calico all over. Overestimate population, claim they will release and maintain a specific number out on the range, roundup, discover they have not found all they intended to take and then remove all and conveniently not release any. This was California’s last wild burro herd that was still viable and they were in an excellent place. Craig is right , they need to release them all. Californians have been good at protesting and this is what they need to do; demand the return of their burros. Why does BLM make an application for removing wild ones and then create an entirely new criteria at the end of the roundup? We know it is to take all they can from the range. But this is changing horses in mid stream. They start with one goal and create another just when they ought to complete their first. This cannot be legal. mar

    Like

  13. They know they are decimating the herds. It is their goal. The removal of OUR wild horses from OUR lands. This is why they do not bother doing a census of wild horse populations prior to the stampedes and why they pull numbers out of their you know whats. Why do you think it is so important to them to block the public and press and any information getting through to educate the public on this issue? So that they can continue unimpeded with the elimination of the wild horses in breakneck time, literally. (rest in peace, Braveheart).

    Like

  14. Sadly I’m not surprised at the low numbers. We know BLM doesn’t know how to count, and there methodology is in need of overhauling.

    I hope Laura is able to mention this in court as part of her evidence that BLM rountinely says one thing but does another.

    I should mention that I saw the movie Wild Horse Redemption, which I think was made prior to Kennie Salazoo. In the very beginning BLM is quoted as saying the range can handle–it was either 27,500 or 28,500 wild horses. That is the BLM speak.

    If the ranges really only have 15,000 horses and BLM is rounding up over 12,000 of them this year–where are they going to find the some 8.000 extra horses to be rounded up next year?

    Does anyone know if BLM did release any horses back to Calico or did they all go into the BLM’s black hole never to be seen again?

    For anyone wanting to go see Cloud next year please write RT and have him forward your letter onto me. I’m not sure how to link my FB page here. There is a way up there. It’s offroad but isn’t as bad as Burnt Timber. And you dont’ want to take Sykes–its worst than Burnt Timber.

    RT maybe you could send me a note telling me how to link my FB page here.

    Like

  15. What I do not understand is the lawsuits being brought against the BLM have done nothing to stop them. What good are the laws if they are not made to abide by them. Is the BLM above the law? It would appear so. Why did the court not put an order in for the roundups to be halted? The HSUS won the battle to keep the hearing in New York but the BLM IS OUT THERE RIGHT NOW ROUNDING UP MORE HORSES & BURROS!!!! I want an answer, please, anybody???? WHY THE HELL IS THIS STILL GOING ON?

    Like

  16. One Burro released? That is insane and cruel! What was the purpose? This just makes me ill! I can’t believe this demonic BLM has not been stopped. Nobody trusts the government now and this just adds to the mistrust. The government needs to realize it is all about the horses and burros and the dusty trail they leave behind isn’t gonna clear for a long time to come!

    Like

  17. First, I want to thank Craig Downer for this recent study and for his undying dedication to the Wild Ones. Your efforts are appreciated by many, many people who know the difference between right and wrong. Thank you.
    In February of this year, BLM instructed its field offices to switch from the “Direct Count” method of census to two other population survey methods. Twin Peaks did not do this, which is another reason their current census count is so far off from Craig Downer’s. Let’s all educate ourselves on this subject and find the holes in their activities and then “call them on it”. Hopefully you will want to study these inaccuracies and then contact Eagle Lake representatives and the National Wild Horse and Burro Team and ask them to provide their Twin Peaks census study to you and to explain their inefficiency in following the current BLM census methods. That is what I will be doing (names and addresses below).
    Please note that the BLM has completed their Results of Roundup and I am sure you will want to compare their findings with the recent study and report done by Craig Downer. It is obvious to me for many reasons that BLM’s census is inaccurate and that our wild ones that are left on their range are in serious trouble – for their limited population and for their genetic viability.
    BLM report:
    “The BLM has completed a post-roundup count of wild horses and burros in the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area (HMA), finding that 793 wild horses and 160 wild burros remain on the range. BLM’s goal was to leave a healthy herd of at least 450 wild horses and 72 wild burros to reach the Appropriate Management Level (AML) set by the Eagle Lake Resource Management Plan in 2008 to ensure healthy rangelands. Prior to the gather, animal populations were about five times the number of wild horses and two times the number of burros.”
    Now as further information, you will want to learn what BLM says about their own inaccurate census reports and below is a link to their memo. I paraphrase some of it here:
    Per BLM: “The accuracy and precision of the current direct count inventory method have proven to be unreliable, especially in large areas…” [My comment: I couldn’t agree with you more!]
    Per BLM: Policy: Two population survey methods, simultaneous double-count with sightability bias correction and mark-resight using photographs, will progressively be implemented and utilized by field offices as training for field specialists, technical support, and funding are available to facilitate implementation. The goal of the Wild Horse and Burro Program (WH&B) is to produce a reliable estimate of each wild horse or burro population …”
    Per BLM: “Most BLM offices currently base their WH&B population estimates on direct counts from either a helicopter or a fixed-wing airplane. However, research reviewed by the National Research Council (1982) indicated that this practice can undercount the actual number of wild horses by 7-60% depending on topography, vegetation, observer experience, weather, type of aircraft, etc.” [My comment: BLM agrees that the direct count is inaccurate. It says so right there in black and white and if it is agreed that this method is inaccurate then it can just as well cause OVERCOUNT as well as undercount!]
    Per BLM: “Timeframe: This Instruction Memorandum is effective upon issuance.” [My comment: BLM implemented two new count methods long before the Twin Peaks post roundup survey was done – so Twin Peaks must justify why they did not use the prescribed methods and continued to use the direct method which is no longer prescribed by BLM and is agreed as unreliable].
    In addition, the BLM memo regulations say that IF the above two methods can’t be used for some reason, and then they must do a lot of other rules while using the direct count method. One of the rules says: “Take a camera – photograph all groups of twenty or more animals when possible. ” [My comment: so if they do have justification of continuing the old direct count and IF they did “count” 793 horses and 160 burros then they certainly saw some groups of twenty or more and were required to photograph them … per BLM regulations…. so I want to see these photographs. Don’t you?]
    Here is another BLM requirement: “…scientifically supportable and defensible population estimates of wild horse and burro populations.” [My comment: I want to see this too – I want to see their reports that are “scientifically supportable and defensible.”]
    Again, I quote BLM: “The accuracy and precision of the current direct count inventory method have proven to be unreliable, especially in large areas…”
    http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/regulations/Instruction_Memos_and_Bulletins/national_instruction/2010/IM_2010-057.html
    You and I pay for these reports and photographs to be done and we have a right to see them.
    Please contact and request them from:
    Jeff Fontana jfontana@blm.gov Office (530) 252-5332 cell (530) 260-0189
    Erin Curtis ecurtis@blm.gov Office (916) 978-4622 cell (916) 350-0518
    Jan Bedrosian jbedros@blm.gov Office (916) 978-4616 Cell (916) 947-7730
    Debbie Collins [National Wild Horse and Burro Team] wildhorse@blm.gov Office 866-468-7826
    Our wild ones are about to go into winter in a devastated condition. Herd families have been torn apart and the mature herd animals who have experience in surviving have been taken away. We must continue to do whatever we can to put a stop to this abuse of OUR animals.

    Like

    • (Hi, G.G.)
      A coupla other stuff we should consider:
      Pictures on Teri Farley’s website (9/20/10) reveal a considerable amount of those animals released were MULES.
      I love the Mules, but any gradeschooler with a minor in Horses knows – Mules don’t make babies. Pretty crappy to use the Mules as ‘numbers released’ and as contributors to non-reproducing herds.
      And whatever Burros may remain in Twin Peaks are on a path toward extinction; while their range requirements in relation to their size may be less than their Wild Horse cousins, they are a purist species. Wild Horses are the culmination of centuries of different breeds and Mother Nature gifting them with the best of that breeding. Burros are pretty much unchanged in the last thousand years. They NEED a broader population base than the mythical ‘160’ to draw from or there will be catastrophic inbreeding. And a single Burro-specific ailment could kill them all outright.
      I’m not playing the roll of doomsayer. But this is another illustration of the lack of science that is “Not Management”.

      Like

      • OMG! Do you mean to tell me that BLM counted mules as “horses”? I know a little bit about mules (my boss owns some and swears they are great) and even less about burros … but do know mules don’t reproduce but had not heard that burros genetic reproduction is even more “delicate” than the wild horses. Good information and thank you. I still can’t get over the fact that the people we pay to “manage” our wild ones and their/our land posted a photo of mules with a caption that said they were horses! OMG!

        Like

    • I applaud Mr Downer for attempting a population estimate for the Twin Peaks HMA. However, both the survey and the analysis are flawed. First of all, a simultaneous double count method requires sufficient transects for a representative analysis. The 23.25 sq miles which Mr Downer flew amount to less than 2% of the total HMA and were not sufficient for an accurate population estimate. Secondly, Mr. Downer’s analysis did not estimate the number of horses and burros NOT seen which is essential for such population estimates. The number of horses not observed during population estimates in juniper woodlands similar to areas of the Twin Peaks HMA has been shown to be substantial, and for burros has been shown to be even higher. It is almost certain there are more than the 265 horses Mr. Downer estimated for the Twin Peaks HMA– the question is how many more.

      We need to force BLM to use the simultaneous double count method which has been proven to be accurate which is why it has been used to estimate big-game wildlife populations for years. The USGS are the experts in the field of population estimation- we need to have BLM spend our tax dollars for experts to do this work. We should also put pressure on BLM to hire WILDLIFE BIOLOGISTS to manage wild horses and burros instead of people with ranching and range backgrounds who approach horse managmement with the same metality as livestock management (water troughs, fences, and stock trucks).

      Like

      • Quite frankly, estimates of any kind for correction are not scientific and vary according to weather season forage ect..and should not be used for any purpose other than speculation..I am more concerned with BLM statements that reproduction is as high as 37% on this HMA..when you do a “raid” on the wild horses it is a simple matter to count foals w mares, I see a whole lot less foals with mares being rounded up and in bands than 20%, and where is the correction to account for mares already having been released with PZP? It is impossible to keep coming up with a figure of 20% reproduction rate as the only rate that matters is the “live foal rate” and any breeder can tell you that as a scientific fact..computer generated figures are only as good as the numbers put in to begin with..and that is where the first lie begins..horses do not breed like rabbits as any domesticated breeder can tell you, much is done artificially to get around conception rates in mares..I should have been raising wild horses then and saved myself 200,000 in vet bills..this whole line is nonsense..pure and simple..I see alarmingly low conception rates..AND every HMA is different in terrain forage hazards climate and predation, this idea that you can use one formula as a predictor..is flawed in and of itself..I spent considerable time pouring over all the research done by the USGS..they concluded that the most reliable means of counting could be obtained through the military, using satellight technology used in spying operations, cheaper and more accurate, and that combined with some forms of birth control..NOT sterilization, could in fact eliminate the need for roundups..which in turn would save the taxpayer-billions of dollars..The greatest predator of wildlife is mankind, with their vehicles obstructions. fences and general lack of common sense..we as a whole are not more qualified than mother nature..whether we are a biologist or gas pumper.

        Like

  18. We must continue to keep tabs on the numbers and the justifications for roundups and aim at restoring the wild horses and burros allowing them to fulfill their healing role in the North American ecosystem where as post gastric digesters and natural gardeners they have such an important role to play. It is disgraceful how unfair BLM officials our supposed public servants are treating these magnificent animals and the public who support them!

    Like

  19. The BLM IS ALLS LIES SO IS THEIR AMLS. I am calling for the removal of all welfare cattle and sheep and BLM , and restoration of ALL WILD HORSES & BURROS. I want BLM and all welfare ranchers held responsible for murdering wild horses and burros , defrauding the American people and destruction of our public lands, water and wildlife, native plants, soil.

    Like

  20. I don’t believe the BLM way of accounting for wild horses is accurate either. All the articles that I have read regarding the accounting BLM uses if mostly one fly over and I do not believe they cover the complete land mass either. What we need is a complete audit of the BLM going back a number of years. There are to many unanswered questions. Do you realize why employees of the BLM were not put in jail before? It was determined there were to many people in the United States that would go to jail for what the BLM was doing slaughter and all. WE MUST PUT A STOP ONE AND ALL FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR WILD HORSES.

    Like

  21. There’s big bucks in horse slaughter, and this is where many our “unseen” wild horses are ending up. Especially, those driven onto “private lands,” rounded-up later in secrecy by the BLM at private land owners “request” (and at taxpayer expense), and relabeled “estray.”

    It is a horrible group of double dipping humans doing this and I hope they get exposed.

    Like

  22. This is what we expected. The wild horses will be gone and that’s what the BLM is trying to do. They have inflated the numbers, than do the round up and leave less then they say they were going to leave. I hope this report gets added to the lawsuit in New York. I’m so glad to see that this class was filed in NY and this may give the wild horses a chance. The BLM MUST be stopped!

    Like

  23. Thank you Craig for doing the flyover and subsequent report. I watched the video on the flyover and as I did my heart sank lower and lower. I saw much pretty and rugged scenery but, what I did not see were equines. I was somehow praying that they were there and I was just not seeing them. I watched the video over and over again looking for signs of life, nothing. Your report, unfortunately, proves that what I was noting was true. Dealing with the wild horse issue is without a doubt the most frustrating thing I have ever done in my entire life. I have poored over reports hoping that they would make sensem but they never do.

    Like

    • Morgan, we know exactly how you feel, but we must keep fighting and never give up.. The BLM lies so much there is no way their reports can make sense. ThEA’s are just BS. There needs to be an EIS ( Environmental Impact Study) for each roundup so just maybe we could prove how unnecessary they all are.

      Like

      • Oh, no I’ll never give up. I had just realized that this report is from 2010. Sad that the same report is just as appropo today as the day it was first done. Way too few horses and burros out there and they damn well know it.

        Like

      • Morgan and Barbara-

        BLM states 1,506 WH&B&M on Twin Peaks HMA as of April 2013.  I only wish that there were that many – but there are not.

        Two other independent aerial flights have been done since 2010 in addition to numerous independent on the ground surveys by many different people and all research gives the same answer – few remain.  

        Here is the link to the most recent independent aerial survey flight – the summary report should be done soon. https://rtfitchauthor.com/2013/12/07/

        Like

      • Thanks Gramma Gregg, I had lost where I read about that (should have known it would RT that would have posted it) and was about to go look for it. I know my heart is going to sink when I see the real numbers.

        Like

  24. Thanks for that link, Grandma Gregg ,to the 2013 report. I’ve read it a few times and it’s awesome but very sad. I don’t remember the 2010 report-old age. . There are not even 1,506 jack rabbits at Twin Peaks after the fires . The inflated number is a big lie IMO. and what the BLM does to excuse unnecessary roundups/removals.

    Like

Care to make a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s