Press Release from Animal Rescue Unit
Salazar’s “Wild Horse Harvesting Machine” Out of Control
Animal Rescue Unit is an organization dedicated to revealing the truth about animal suffering, we specialize in investigation, rehabilitation, education and legislation for animal welfare. Over the past few years we have become increasingly concerned about the tactics the BLM is using to round up the wild horses. We decided to launch an investigation into the round ups and organized a team of investigators to go to Burns Oregon to do three days of observation of the Warm Springs Herd and the Warm Springs Round up on November 6th. We teamed up with experienced wild horse observer Leslie Peeples to guide us on this western tour.
Investigators Brogan Horton and Brett Bowen along with Leslie Peeples spent two days out on the Warm Springs and South Steens herd management areas observing the herds in the wild, documenting the ranges and watering sources. Before dawn on November 6th Horton, Bowen and Peeples met a group of 8 including a Burns Oregon BLM office public relations manager and headed out to the Warm Springs HMA to observe the round up. We arrived at 7:00am, the helicopter came in to refuel once at 9:16 and the first set of horses was pushed for at least 3 hours, getting to the trap at 10:50. We had two video camcorders and a camera documenting every moment.
The rounding of these horses started on the 2nd of November, and the BLM contractors (Sun J) are planning to use only one trap site so many of the horses will have to be pushed 20 to 30 miles as the Herd management area is 475,000 acres. BLM provided only two public observation days if you preregistered. Laura Leigh and Debbie Coffey of Grassroots Horse came to observe the Warm Springs round up the day before. The helicopter pushed horses all day from great distances around this range, however no horses were brought in to the trap site.
The chute leading into the trap was not adequately set to guide the horses into the trap and the Judas horse was released much to close to the trap so the horses did not follow him well as they did not have a long enough run way to catch on and follow him. Consequently the horses were run back and forth in front of the trap relentlessly and many split off and scattered. Horses were pushed into the corrals, given a moment to regroup then herded into holding pens.
At 11:35 a black foal became separated from his herd in the helicopter chase, he ran north up the hill while his family and mother was rounded up into the corrals. The helicopter chased him at very close range for but he was to scared to turn back so two wranglers mounted their horses and ran at breakneck speed after the 6 month old black colt and roped him, throwing their hands high in the air in apparent joyous victory. One rider pulled him and one rider pushed him down the hill toward the trap. Once they reached the outside of the trap, the colt started to resist, leaping forwards, up and toward the wranglers. The wranglers then marched the colt out of our view behind the bluff directly in front of the trap site, only to come out the other side with no colt. We watched as the riders went back to the trailers, dismounted and the helicopter brought in more horses. 41 minutes later the riders remounted and went back around the bluff, this time returning with a very shaken, exhausted and scared colt. We believe the colt was hog tied on the ground until they went back for him
The helicopter soon returned with a herd of about 30 horses and was unsuccessful at keeping the group together, horses were chased back and forth and splitting of and frantically running away. Many got away over the hills.The trap was poorly designed as the horses had to run straight for a fence then make an abrupt turn left.The corrals were not padded, and offered no protection for the horses. The wranglers congregated on one side and this left one area where there was nothing scary but a fence and it looked like the only way to escape. At least 6 horses, including a 4 month old baby, tried to go under, through or over the left corner panels smashing into the fence. One stallion jammed his knee into a space between panels, getting stuck and then ripping his body out of position, severely injuring himself, several fell to the ground.
The helicopter was very close to the horses at times traveling with the skids just a few feet of the ground with the rotor blade directly over the horses. On one occasion he came within feet of crashing into the bluff next to the trap site while focused on relentlessly pursuing a horse that was trying to escape in terror.
The helicopter pilot directed his attention at a small family of three. The stallion, later to be honored with the name Blue Moon, was with his mare and filly running down the hill with the helicopter hot on their tails. The helicopter intensely chased the family into the corral and took off. There were several more bands breaking away from the site, running for their lives from the helicopter and trap site. This created pressure for the helicopter pilot, pushing him to keep the bands in close proximity, and on the wranglers to carelessly hurry and process the captured horses, and empty the entrance corral. The wranglers brought out crops and sticks with bags on the end. The stallion stood before his mare and filly, against the wranglers as they whipped the bags and crops in front of them, causing a frantic panic in the pen that lasted 5 minutes. The family kept going for that one corner panel where there were no wranglers, throwing their bodies at the panel, trying to go over it, under it, or through it. The mare finally got chased into the separation corral leaving the filly and stallion, who were frantically throwing themselves at the panels, searching for freedom.
The beautiful blue roan stallion gave one final attempt at going through the fence, throwing himself head first into the unpadded steel bars, while the whips and bags cracked behind him. Out of fear, the stallion broke his neck trying to escape the intense pressure that was applied to him. He fell back nearly missing the traumatized filly, who just witnessed the entire event. He staggered to the left, sat on the fence and finally fell on his side, kicking out and desperately trying to lift his head as the wranglers snapped a crop at the filly, causing her to jump over her fathers shuddering body.
At this point, the wranglers decided it was more important to cover the corral with jute to block our view, than attend to the dying mustang. Our cameras were able to capture the entire tragedy in great detail. Their next move was to pull the trailer in front of the struggling stallion furthering inhibiting our view. The contractors attempted to bring more horses into the trap though the dying Blue moon was still in the capture pen. We were then approached by a wrangler on horse back telling us they were done, followed by the BLM employee telling us to pack up. From the moment of impact until we all cleared out, 30 minutes or more, the stallion lay there absolutely terrified, dying in agony and fear.
When asked what they will do with the body, the BLM employee responded that they will load him in the trailer, drive him to another location on the HMA and unload his body, as a part of “natural selection”.
A band of 12 horses escaped over the horizon for their lives, unfortunately the entire process will start again tomorrow and continue until they round up every horse on the 475,000 acre horse herd area.
There are 361 horses on the Warm Springs HMA, the BLM intends to collect them all and only releasing 111 horses, 43 mares treated with fertility control vaccine, 43 stallions, 10 geldings and 15 burros, with no regard to family structures or herd dynamics what so ever.
Our investigators filmed the trailer that loaded from the trap site ,mares, stallions and foals all loaded together (BLM is not following their own rules and is supposed to haul the horses separably using partitions) on the trailer. We were then escorted by BLM to the short term holding site. Our investigators were held back 50-60 yards by BLM law enforcement from the horses on one side and could only catch occasional glimpses of a horse head and could see nothing of the mares and babies in the pens on the back side. It was impossible to check on the welfare or injuries to theses animals at that distance.
We documented the livestock contractors trailer full of mustangs going over 50 mph down the unmaintained, rough and rocky dirt roads for 5 miles, creating a huge dust cloud that filled the inside of the trailer with choking dust. Pulling a trailer full of horses at these speeds, in these conditions is a recipe for disaster incredibly thoughtless and inhumane. At one point, the hauler took a sharp corner close to 50mph, causing the trailer to slide around the corner, violently slamming the horses into each other, and the walls of the trailer. When reaching the highway the rig blew right through a stop sign with no regard for the horses or public safety.
Animal Rescue Unit documented this entire event from beginning to end with over 20 hours of footage. We plan on collaborating with Grassroots Horse in the future to show citizens of the United States what their tax dollars are really being spent on, and what is really happening behind the scenes to our wild horses, our national treasure.
We would like to thank Leslie Peeples for her incredible cinematography work, excellent guiding and major support. We would also like to thank Grassroots Horse, Laura Leigh and Debbie Coffey for their dedication and hard work on behalf of Americas Wild Horses.
Animal Rescue Unit will be 100% focused on these issues and continue our investigative work for the humane treatment and future viability of the wild horses. We do need funding for our upcoming investigations to spread awareness of the reality of the plight of the wild horses, as our investigators work on a 100% volunteer basis. We must keep people documenting on the front lines to witness and provide awareness to the public.