Horse News

BLM Calls Abrupt Halt to Deadly Winter Wild Horse Roundup

Combined Press Release from the ASPCA and the HfH Advisory Council

Selective roundup removes 1,400 horses from Antelope Complex,  only 31 horses returned


Single Stampeded Pregnant Mare follows “Judas” horse into trap on last day of BLM Helicopter Stampede ~ Photo by Terry Fitch

Wells, NV – On Friday, Feb. 25 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) abruptly canceled the controversial wild horse roundup in Northern Nevada known as the Antelope Complex, while the following day the agency released twenty chemically sterilized mares and two studs back onto their federally protected public lands, nine had been released earlier in the roundup.

Equine journalist and Director of Habitat for Horses Advisory Council R.T. Fitch, who has been present at the roundup the past week with his wife and noted equine photographer, Terry Fitch, stated:

“Although we are elated for the remaining horses that will not be subjected to the horrors of the stampede and forever ripped from their rightful homes, we remain devastated by the unnecessary cruelty the captured 1,400 horses suffered at the hands of the BLM’s contractor.”

“Watching near full term pregnant mares being chased over hills and across rocks by an inexperienced helicopter pilot gives an entirely different meaning to animal cruelty”, he added.

The early conclusion of the roundup leaves the BLM nearly 600 horses short of the projected number they had planned to remove.

Speculation as to why the BLM abruptly concluded the roundup was verified during the release when BLM officials stated that the helicopter was bringing in far too many pregnant mares and the risk of injury or death had suddenly escalated.  On site observers stated that their careful documentation of the event was, in part, the reason for the early shutdown.

“It’s quite troubling that more than 1,000 horses had to be callously and unnecessarily removed from the Antelope Complex before the BLM decided to heed our appeal,” said Matt Bershadker, senior vice president of ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) Anti-Cruelty.

Bershadker added, “We hope the BLM’s recent decision to reevaluate their failing practices will allow the agency to focus their vast resources on ensuring the National Academy of Sciences has the access and assistance it needs to provide a careful study of the wild horses, resulting in a more humane, sustainable management program.”

Of the 1,400 horses removed from the Antelope Complex, the BLM has only released a total of 31 horses  back to the range. The agency has confirmed nine fatalities.

“I am stunned that while the roundup was still under way hundreds of private cattle were being introduced to the very same range that only hours before our proud national icons once grazed”, stated Terry Fitch photographer for Horseback Magazine. “We couldn’t even leave the herd management area  due to the huge bovine mowing machine that blocked the road and covered the range.”

Earlier this year, several animal welfare, horse advocacy, and environmental protections groups joined forces to urge the BLM to postpone the Antelope Complex roundup and pursue a plan to construct holding facilities for the horses on private lands adjacent to their home range.

“Although we want this entire inhumane and barbaric process to stop”, added R.T. Fitch, “We will take every little victory for the horses we can get.  Today we celebrate the token release, tomorrow we will continue to fight for reform of this tragically broken and inhumane system.”

21 replies »

  1. Had the BLM done the proper range management, which it is paid to do, they would have and should have known that there were mares in foal:


    The BLM regards March – July as peak “foaling season,” and generally does not conduct roundups during that time. In the final weeks of the roundup, on-site observers saw many heavily pregnant mares being driven into BLM traps during the helicopter stampedes


    • at OUR expense, too. We pay for all of this, the abuse, the deaths,the travesty of it all. we have little say in how our tax dollars are spent. that must change, too.


  2. I wonder if we will find out how many of these horses die and how many mares have miscarriages in the holding facilites they were shipped to ?


    • Not a chance. Not as long as BLM gets to continue to hide behind constantly changing and disappearing stats and reports. They have closed the facilities for a reason and we all know it isn’t for the health of the horses. It is strictly to keep America from learning how poorly our horses are being cared for once they have been ripped from a healthy life on the range to the filth of the corrals where disease spreads from horse to horse. I sit here wondering how many horses will be taken ill as even this one day passes.


  3. Morgan, you are right. We will never know the truth. I know the number of reported deaths are below the correct number .


  4. All I can say is THANK YOU to RT & his team.Small baby steps is fine.In time you will walk away in victory.Your presence out there obviously speaks volumes.


  5. Considering the oppresive situation everyone has had to deal with, what RT, Laura, and everyone else who was out there in 29 degree weather this past week, witnessing one of the greatest travesty of justice and animal cruelty this country has seen for awhile, I stand in awe and great respect for what you all have done this past couple weeks – and until you are better paid, THANK YOU SO MUCH for representing those of us who couldn’t be there with you and the horses themselves. On to Phoenix – this ain’t over yet! Blessed Be!


  6. Thank God its over! Unfortunately far too many horses had to suffer at the hands of these barbarians. Thank you again to the countless volunteers who selflessly gave their time to help the horses.


  7. From Cloud Foundation letter to BLM:

    We remind you that PZP-22, which can render mares infertile for up to three years in some
    cases, was already applied to every mare captured in the round up and returned to the range in
    September of 2009 (with one exception, and that mare was field darted after release per the
    Pryor Mustang Center).
    “Irresponsible” seems far too mild an assessment of the planned use of infertility drugs on a
    herd which is currently experiencing an unprecedented level of societal disruption because of
    the continuous heat cycles of nearly every mare on the range. As we documented in late
    August, a quiet time when most mares are bred and the horses are focused on gaining weight to
    survive the coming winter, there was a degree of unrest unseen in 16 years of field study and
    photography on the herd. We observed a degree of infidelity among the mares and long
    standing band stallions who had lost all their mares. One band stallion who found his daughter
    and her foal unattended by any stallion pursued her over a two day period, running her until he
    raped her. Other unattended mares were observed and stallions left their existing bands to go
    after them. In the case of Flint (Blue Moon), he lost his entire family while in pursuit of an
    older mare in heat who was unattended by any stallion. The fabric of wild horse society was
    unraveling before our eyes, not because of natural impacts, but because humans had decided to
    drug all the mares. This cycle of breeding with a return to estrous within 30 days typically lasts
    from March through October in the Pryor Mountains. Photos and video are available from the
    Cloud Foundation to substantiate this and the other points made above.


  8. The following statement “On site observers stated that their careful documentation of the event was, in part, the reason for the early shutdown”

    This is the main reason they wrapped it up sooner than originally planned.. It is not likely it had to do with the dangers to the many very pregnant mares but the documenting of the rampant cruelty. They were pushing fast and furious as if time was running out. The release of the 31 is bittersweet since the others are gone. Where are they?

    The lull before the belief in what they say, but what they will do.


  9. You’d think with all of us screaming at them to leave the horses alone and not keep increasing cattle, they would at least have been discrete about it. They aren’t only acting the villain, they are acting like the bumbling one too.


  10. That is absolutely disgusting. They force into extinction of the horses and the ground isn’t even cold and the cattle come trampling in. Dispicable. I sent off 12 letters for various senators in complaint of the BLM. Bureau of legalized murder to our precious horses.


  11. God Bless all of you who have witnessed and documented this stampede! It takes among many things guts, courage, fortitude, perserverance, time, energy and money!

    I haven’t been on the internet in days, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been paying attention. When I read that BLM stopped the round up in Antelope on the front page of yesterdays paper, and they quoted BLM as the wind was the issue for the helicopter…I immediately said to myself since when????

    BLM has never stopped a round up for anything! Not snow storms, wind, rain, freezing temps etc. My first inclination is that they couldn’t find anymore horses. While I’m glad they stopped the round up, I’m also VERY concerned they did, only because that MUST mean there are no more horses. It doesn’t surprize me however, since they did ‘stampedes’ from there just two and half years ago.

    By my statistics (not scientific, but just loosely keeping track for the last 20 years) we had at the beginning of LAST year (2010) less than 7,000 horses left wild on the rangelands of NV….My guess now that they stampeded 1,800 off Antelope plus the 1,800 they took off from the January round ups, and the huge amount they took off Black Rock last fall, we’re lucky to have 4,000 horses out there, scattered across millions of acres. Wind storm my eye, finding a wild horse in NV is now like finding a needle in haystack!

    The media spin on what they are going to do in the future is just a ploy to keep Citizen Joe off their backs, the ones that care but don’t follow it that closely. Time will tell if they ever really impliment anything they propose doing, and do it in a humane fashion. One can only guess by their method of castration of stallions, what they’ll be doing to the mares…how will they ‘gather those mares to inject them’? Are they going to be darting them from the air or are they going to be rounding them up, injecting then releasing… and we all know how wonderful NOT their methods of gather are in the first place.

    The infertility drug PZP they plan on using is NOT a good drug. I spoke with Ginger as well as Susan Pohlman and compared notes on what we were seeing over two years ago on mares that had at one time or another been injected with PZP…the end results were not good and haven’t changed any in those two years since our conversations. Mares foal out of season, many that do become pregnant abort at mid term, or go full term then produce still borns or weak foals that do not survive a 3 days. Maybe this is why UNR (University Nevada Reno) dropped it’s research on this drug inspite of the fact that there were still grant monies to be had for it… Universities rarely, if ever, abandon grant money….

    It’s very disturbing that the HSUS is endorsing the use of PZP ? There are other drugs out there, far less tragic in their results that should be considered and weighed out first before everyone jumps on the PZP band wagon. I have to ask why is everyone so ‘high’ on PZP? It sounds like backing from the drug company to me… we all remember the Permarin nightmares… The only way we finally shut that down was because people finally realized this horse produced hormone caused more damage than good for both women using it and the horses that gave it up or in many cases of the foals…their lives. I smell the same sort of dead rats in the vat regarding PZP. Do not trust anyone regarding this drug!

    Laura, I saw you as I drove by on Sunday at PVC…I haven’t seen her but the days preceeding I was looking at a Palomino mare that looked like she was going to foal by the position of the foal in her belly. I’ve been looking for her the last two days and haven’t seen her… I’m guessing this is the one that the wranglers were chasing? The baby you took the photo of with the umbillical cord still attached?

    Last year I witnessed wranglers going around in the pens picking up dead foals that did not survive during foaling season…mind you over a three month period… I saw at least 25 dead foals in the back of that p.u. bed over that period of time, and I wasn’t there every day…so sad.


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