Horse News

BLM Uses Junk Science to Attack Another Wild Horse Herd

story by Mary Bernard, of the Vernal Express

Bad Numbers and Propaganda Permeate BLM’s Justification for Wiping out Herd

(The comments made by the BLM and their associates do NOT reflect the opinion of the staff of SFTHH)

Cowboys and helicopters worked earlier this month to gather 109 wild horses from the Winter Ridge Herd Area, roughly 60 miles south of Vernal.

Range conditions forced the removal of the herd from the public lands under the direction of Vernal Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management.

“There’s barely enough range to support the herd as it is,” said Gus Warr, director of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program in Utah.

An environmental assessment of the range indicated the herd had exceeded the available forage.

“In a good year, one animal needs seven to eight acres of forage,” Warr said. “But in a bad year up to 20 acres might sustain one horse.”

The cumulative effect of drought, disease, heavy snows and lack of winter forage have taken their toll on the animals. Herd records were first made in 1977, when 40 animals were counted. But within five years the number had dwindled to eight animals.

“I truly believe these animals should be left wild and free,” said Lisa Friday, a wild horse advocate from Richmond, Va., who traveled to Utah to observe the roundup.

“The alternative is natural selection,” she said, noting that the forces of nature are effective in population control.

Friday also disputes the BLM’s findings of deficient range on Winter Ridge.

“Look at this, there’s grass everywhere,” she said while standing near the corrals. Her advocacy has led her to testify before Congress to stop the BLM’s actions.

An unusually wet spring left the herd in good shape this year in contrast to most years. But after years of difficult management the BLM determined the Winter Ridge Herd Area was not a suitable habitat to sustain the horses.

“Today, we estimate between 120 and 150 animals — horses, burros, and at least two mules — roam the Winter Ridge Herd Area of 46,500 acres,” said BLM public affairs specialist Lisa Reid.

These are not the legendary mustangs of western lore. Instead they are feral horses escaped from nearby ranches and tribal properties, according to the BLM’s environmental assessment. Their range is a wind-swept landscape on the edge of the Bookcliffs shared by oil and natural rigs, hunters, ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The BLM and Cattoor Livestock Roundup Inc. from Nephi spent the days leading up to the Sept. 9 roundup attempting to get an accurate count of the herd and scout a location to place their trap — an area where horses are brought in large groups, and then moved to corrals.

“The trap site needs to be carefully selected in a place close to the animals and somewhere they would naturally go,” said Cattoor spokeswoman Sue Cattoor.

“The trap site is selected for humane capture of the animals and not necessarily public viewing,” Cattoor said.

Still, assistant director of the Utah State School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, Kim Christy, whose agency’s lands are included in the herd area, was able to visit the trap site. Christy, who said his agency “applauds the initiative of the BLM in taking this action,” was given full access to the gather beyond the restricted areas.

Cattoor said restricted access is crucial because the company carries millions of dollars in liability insurance to ensure the safety of people and horses during a helicopter roundup.

The roundup procedures, in general, used two helicopters flying low to slowly drive small bands of horses into a trap. On Sept. 9, the helicopter flew just over the horses, “herding them up a hillside into the narrowing wings of a fence line covered with jute,” said Shane Sampson, a wrangler for the drive.

“A prodder horse leads them into a catch pen where we separate the studs, foals and mares into holding corrals,” he added.

Once separated, the horses were loaded about a dozen at a time onto trailers and transported to holding pens. The process was repeated until all the horses were removed from the trap.

It was a fairly calm process designed to keep the animals quiet in order to reduce injury among the herd.

Once captured, a final health evaluation and sort in the holding pens was completed by U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian Al Cane. He refused to comment on the condition of the Winter Ridge herd after collection, but an overall assessment by BLM officials rated the animals’ body condition as “normal.”

However, Reid told the Vernal Express that two horses had to be destroyed after the gather.

“Two were humanely euthanized after it was determined their injuries were significant,” she said. “These were old injuries and neither animal was hurt during the gather.”

Reid went on to say that officials traveled into Bull Canyon near Winter Ridge where they located an additional 50 horses, mules and burros.

“The terrain presents its own set of challenges, as not every locality is open enough to fly helicopters,” Reid said.

Altogether 36 studs, 46 mares, 26 foals and one gelding were gathered in the roundup. The animals were kept at the holding facility pending further tests for equine infectious anemia. As of Sept. 12, all blood samples taken had come back negative and all horses were being prepared for transport to the Delta Wild Horse and Burro Facility.

The facility houses the animals short-term before they are sent to pastures in Eastern states or adopted. Adoptions are by appointment only, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are closed on federal holidays. Call 435-743-3100 for information.

21 replies »

  1. This Dr. Kane has some accountability issues in allowing the gather to happen in such a inhumane fashion that two horses had to be euthanized. This would have not happened if improvement in the gathering process to AVOID injuries in the first place. Second an independent audit by outside sources other than cattoors needs to be used to get an accurate census of how many horses are out on a healthy range land. This seems to me that the justification is blowing smoke up the American tax payer’s ass and justify the use of tax dollar in an unnecessary gather and holding. Peer review should be conducted. If an expert turned in a scientific paper on the use of a certain drug used to treat stupidity this drug would have to under go peer review of the benefits and drawbacks of that drug before being released for humane use.

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  2. Cattoor said “restricted access is crucial because the company carries millions of dollars in liability insurance to ensure the safety of people and horses during a helicopter roundup”. How considerate of the safety of people who are being striped of their rights to enjoy wild horses, not to mention the likelihood of death and slaughter of the horses. Maybe the insurance companies, helicopter companies, and Cattoor are really motivated by something other then our safety, could it be those millions of dollars?

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    • “Still, assistant director of the Utah State School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, Kim Christy, whose agency’s lands are included in the herd area, was able to visit the trap site. Christy, who said his agency “applauds the initiative of the BLM in taking this action,” was given FULL ACCESS to the gather beyond the restricted areas.”

      Apparently, if you applaud the BLMs actions, liability insurance is no longer an issue for the Cattoors.

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  3. Re: “Cattoor said restricted access is crucial because the company carries millions of dollars in liability insurance to ensure the safety of people and horses during a helicopter roundup.” What has that got to do with it? Every American Business carries millions of dollars in liability insurance, but they don’t restrict access. If they did – they would have no business. Oh, and by the way, I don’t think the insurance covers the horses. If it did, they would have had to pay a lot of claims!
    This is one of the dumbest statements to come out of Sue’s mouth, and anyone who believes anything she says is dumber yet. She obviously likes to talk to hear herself talk.

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  4. On the insurance excuse– we owned a bakery for 24 years, and we had million dollar policies to protect us from accidents, broken teeth, food poisoning, etc. We certainly didn’t restrict people from eating our products. Liability insurance is just a cost of doing business, not an excuse for Cattoor of SunJ to restrict people from access and observation.

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    • Don’t think that it is in the constitution that 1st amendment rights can be ignored if the insurance policy is expensive for the private profiteers. Pretty sure that is not in there.

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  5. I just don’t get it. Everything in NV along I 80, hwy 93, ID and WY was green this summer. I have the pictures to prove it. The only mountains that weren’t green were white with SNOW! And this was 2-3 week in July.

    Sure the winter hard. But the range is in great shape.

    By the way the horses aren’t feral if they were there prior to 1971. I don’t give a cow’s rear end–those horses are protected by law. Just because the terrain is tough to negotiate is not a reason to round up.

    And why if those two horses weren’t hurt as a result of the round up did BLM shoot them? If they were managing just fine on the range then leave ’em alone!

    Burn’s Amendment needs to be burned! Pun most definitely intended!

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  6. BLM calling wild horses “FERAL” in an EA? How do they PROVE each horse is “feral” to us?
    The BLM seems to just declare whatever they want in the EAs.

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    • When we were at Winter Ridge it was the BIA lands where the horses were. They were along the Green and White Rivers. They had the rivers for water and there was good range amid the gas platforms and the canyons nearby. There was less water towards Bonanza HA where we still saw good early grasses and the sorrel bachelor along the road and tracks at a water hole. It was old horse range all the way into CO. We saw 85+ horses on the res. All the bands had foals except the bachelors. They were beautiful horses. Looked like wild horses to me and not ranch stock. All colors, too. But the region was checkered with gas platforms, gas lines above ground which go everywhere and that treatment plant that had the worst smell possible was still where we saw a couple family bands. They are in a bad area but live well enough. There was evidence they got hit by trucks, also; foal skeleton in the grass. They were very exposed along this land between the rivers and the little road but they were very healthy horses with family bands with Spring foals. The areas beyond the reservation are ranched with sheep and cows. The Bird Sanctuary was also the backside to the wild horses area. A swampy place off the Green River to the NorthWest of the horses. There is good range amid the mess of the gas production and better range further east to the Colorado border on the former Bonanza HA.

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  7. I find myself wanting to throw something across the room!!! Or just say, “So, would you like fries with that BS?!” Not only does it insult everyone’s intelligence, but I also want an explanation as to why the ranchers are committing their cattle to basic starvation by turning them out on public lands that can’t sustain less horses than the number of cows they are turning out there as soon as the horse are gone! ARRGGH!!!!!!! I’m going to go kick an inanimate object now!

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    • Those plans are as evil and scary as they can be. An ethical vet would not be in favor of euthanizing ( killing by gun shot probably ) healthy horses but he’s still working for the BLM.

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  8. The reasons these horses were being removed has altered over the past few years and then Warr came up with the EIA scare to finish them off. We knew wild horses were gone from HA for many years as the gas fields grew. Little Book Cliffs is further south of all this activity. I believe there may be scattered groups of horses all over out there and down to the Arches National Park where horses used to roam, along the Colorado River.

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  9. Now we see what big business has done to our natural areas. Gas fields, contaminated water and yet the Money Monsters continue to rape our federal lands. It must be hard for all of you that live in the area to see what has been done. And yet the Wild Horses and burros try to continue living in these areas. For those of us who live in the east and midwest, pictures should be taken so that we all can see what damage has been done. It should be an awaken for all of us. When will the BLM stop their BS. They just make anything up to avoid having the public see how they mistreat the horses. Do you mean to tell me if the horses were injured they could not be humanely euthanized. The BLM and everyone hired by them should be brought up on charges. They have told so many lies that they believe them to be true. Just sickening!

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  10. That report Louie gave a link to is SCARY. I mean here are people talking about putting down perfectly healthy horses for no reason other than age.

    Then on one page is a reference to someone named Sally in Canada who would take 10,000 horses for slaughter. Not my horse you aren’t. To paraphrase a line from the movie Topgun

    BLM you don’t those horses the taxpayers do. Children of the BLM listen up–your agency is writing checks your bodies can’t cash.

    We come to you with ideas, with plans and to no avail.

    Your agency is headed down a deep dark canyon. You have employees who abuse there privileges–it’s called police brutality. It’s called animal abuse. It’s called neglect. It’s called many things but one thing remains ABSOLUTELY clear and that is–your agency does not promote the health and welfare of the animals first.

    Humane treatment treatment on, BLM off– repeat many times each day.

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  11. A note on Dr. Kane; If he is such an expert, Where was he when the roundup’s occurred ? Where was he during the Triple B disaster where a total of 14 foals died as a result of abuse and methods of hap hazard sorting of under age foals, their mother’s and stallion? Where was he during the most crucial post roundup faze of providing adequate water to theses horse once these gather’s where completed? Where was he when some one who clearly has knowledge and basic husbandry and veterinary skills and took an oath to First do no harm, to say stop harassing the horses during the chase of foals to the point some where left to die by themselves and no accountability on the pilot? If this guy was in private practice I would go to the state where he practices and file a complaint and have his license revoked for gross incompetence, neglect, and failure to intervene when it was most needed.

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    • Elizabeth, you wrote “during the Triple B disaster where a total of 14 foals died as a result of abuse and methods of hap hazard sorting of under age foals” and I am struck by this huge number of foals you have put here. Please tell us where this number came from? If someone has information that is so counter to what the public has, please share this source?

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