Horse News

Animals’ Angels FOIA Request Uncovers Grave Discrepancy in BLM Mortality Rates

Information supplied by Animal’s Angels

What is happening at the Bureau of Land Management’s Nevada Palomino Valley Holding Facility?
Palomino Valley Captive ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Palomino Valley Captive ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

There have been many reports lately about questionable actions of the Bureau of Land Management and its contractors, such as selling horses out of long term holding to known kill buyers Joe Simon and Musick Livestock (“Wild Horses Sold to Killbuyer“) or allowing individuals such as Tom Davis to purchase 1700 horses without questioning where all these horses would end up. (“Wild Horses to Slaughter“).

 Animals’ Angels latest Freedom of Information Act request only increased our concerns over the BLM’s treatment of wild horses and burros. Among other things, the BLM’s Palomino Valley Facility in Nevada seems to be drastically under-reporting the actual number of horses and burros that have died under its “care.”

The National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley is the largest BLM holding facility in the country. The facility, located near Reno, serves as the primary holding area for wild horses and burros rounded up from the public lands in Nevada as well as neighboring states. The facility has 160 acres and according to the BLM website, can hold a maximum of 2,000 horses and burros at any given time.

 In order to deal with the eventuality of equine deaths, the NV Bureau of Land Management has an ongoing contract with a rendering plant, Nevada By-Products (d/b/a Reno Rendering), to process the horses and burros from the Palomino Valley Holding Facility.

According to the contract paperwork, Nevada By-Products was chosen over landfill disposal due to cost effectiveness and the fact that “Due to the sensitive nature of the public to the wild horse and burro program, it is necessary to dispose of these large animals as quickly and discretely (sic) as possible and Reno Rendering fulfills these requirements.”

It should also be noted that in the contract specifications, the NV BLM estimated approximately 200 adults and 100 foals would need to be sent for rendering each year.

In addition to the contract itself, our FOIA request obtained all records of deceased horses and burros sent from the BLM holding facility to the rendering plant from January 1, 2010 through May 31, 2012.

Palomino Valley ~ by Terry Fitch

Palomino Valley ~ by Terry Fitch

During that time-frame the BLM itself reported in the official Palomino Valley Mortality Detail Report that only 241 horses and burros died at the Palomino Valley and 50 at the Fallon facility. However, the records from the rendering plant tell quite a different story.  

According to the Nevada By-Product invoices for that same time period, a startling 577 dead horses were received from the Palomino Valley Facility. This is a shocking difference of 336 animals (286 animals if the Nevada By-Product invoices do  include the Fallon horses), a number simply too large to ignore.

Click here to review the FOIA records… 

Compounding our concerns, an inordinate number of foals and colts were among the deceased. “Newborns” or “babies” were also specifically noted on several of the rendering plant receipts. A total of 332 foals and colts were included in the rendering plant invoices. In March 2011 alone, 10 horses and 64 colts died and were shipped to Nevada By-Products.

It begs the questions: Why the discrepancy?  Why are so many young horses dying? What would the BLM holding facility gain by under-reporting these figures?

The BLM’s stance all along is that its roundups are humane. On the face of it, we already know this is blatantly untrue. Roundups are done via helicopter, panicking the wild horses and  burros and, as a result, causing undue injury. Wild horses and burros will, as a matter of instinct, startle when put under stress, yet the BLM continues to ignore the voices who are advocating for helicopter-free and humane roundups, or better still, to end the roundups altogether.

"Why", the question asked at Palomino Valley ~ photo by Terry Fitch

“Why”, the question asked at Palomino Valley ~ photo by Terry Fitch

The disparity in the death rates reported by the BLM would seem to indicate many more horses and burros are dying at their facilities than they would have us believe.

 This newly uncovered mortality discrepancy casts yet another dark shadow on the BLM and is another sign that more seems to be going on than meets the eye. With the number of stories regarding questionable sales to kill buyers, cruelty and  unexplained record keeping piling up from various outlets, a question we should all ask is: What doesn’t the BLM want the public to know?    

Animals’ Angels would like to thank Debbie Coffey of Wild Horse Freedom Federation for her assistance with this investigation!  

34 replies »

    • Good question…no were near the F, M, or G on the keyboard. I notice a LOT of fishy reasons for euthanizing…i..e blind in one eye…they were doing fine on the range, some even totally blind do fine as the others will help them. These people appear to get a charge out of killing…

      I’m ashamed of our government!


  1. Will someone please explain to me how a MARE can die of GELDING COMPLICATIONS?
    Page 22 of Palomino Mortality Report horse # 91607481.
    This happens to have been a Twin Peaks horse and the complete TP capture data I have (FOIA’d) also lists this horse as a mare.


  2. In 2000 when I adopted a 2 yr old mustang from the Kingman, Az holding facility I arrived with a horse trailer to pick him up and was told that he’d ‘committed suicide”. They’d pulled him out of the group and into a small corral for pick up and he ran head on into the panel in his attempt to escape back to the other horses and broke his neck. I asked to see him since I wasn’t sure if I believed them and they took me out back to a deep pit where his body was. They mass grave these animals, the sides of this pit were lined with the bones of previous dead horses and burros. They have their own landfill behind the holding facility. Obviously many have died there too.


    • I have heard similar stories many times … so sorry to hear yours. Sympathy to you and to the horse who would have #1 had a great life in the wild as mother nature intended if left alone to start with and/or #2 would have had a great life with you as his friend and guardian.

      I have also experienced losing a wild horse I tried to save … and to tell you the truth, you and I have experienced the loss of thousands of horses that we have tried save. Sad and wrong … and just want you to know I understand.


  3. I have a idea that a large number of the deaths are caused from gelding infections caused from the nasty conditions the horses are kept in. I believe they are also removing foals to young to survive without their mothers to back pens and let them starve to death to get rid of them. That would account for the number of foal deaths. They keep a few to fool the public into thinking the BLM is the good guy. Look what they did about the foals that ran their hooves off in some of the roundups. The photos I saw left at least two laying on a cold frozen ground and no one from the BLM was around trying to help them.


    • You’re speaking of Courage and Hope Springs Eternal. No BLM was no where to be found. Those were in the days when reports started changing. They’d post something one day and a few days later go back in and “fix” the report.

      It took them days and days to put Courage down. Another advocate was all approved for adoption even by BLM standards. That person was denied Hope in part we fear because of the pictures being posted on the web. That advocate had everything they needed to adopt Hope and see them through. Even if it meant euthanasia.

      In those days the hospital pens at Fallon had no windbreaks. No trees to hide in to get away from the endless blowing sand. Nothing to soften the cold frozen ground. No they were just left on the ground to suffer a cruel indignant death because someone higher up the food chain deemed them not worthy of the time, money or effort.


  4. Just tragic. This isn’t “our” government. These are individuals allowed to get away with extreme cruelty. Salazar still has to answer for all of this.


    • But do you really believe he will? Just like all of these criminal minded professional politicians, he’ll walk without any repercussions.


  5. Every time I read these articles it makes me more sick. I just don’t understand why they put these wild horse’s in holding pens. It is now apparent that most of these horse’s do not live a full and healthy lifestyle.(if they are not adopted, they are pretty much sentenced to death). Mysterious death’s and number’s being off is not right. Who are these so called people trying to play “God”. Let these poor horse’s and burro’s be free the way it was supposed to be. Nature takes care of them and they do fine without human intervention. I have not seen a video or a picture where any horse look’s starving or dying of thirst. They look happy with their families in the wild!!!!!! Born Free!!!!!!! Wild Horse Annie would be mortified to see what is happening to the wild Mustang’s!!!!


  6. I agree with you Barbara, lies. Here is another example (from Twin Peaks FOIA):
    “One stud foal approx. 1 week old – Euthanized. Injury to coronet. Old not gather related.”

    Now … how old can the injury be if the animal is only one week old! And … as we have seen so many times before, young foals that are chased for miles by a helicopter have their hooves come off – especially in volcanic rock like most of Twin Peaks.

    Per the report, this foal was apparently euthanized in the field [one of Cattoor’s don’t let the public see it deaths? … as he was documented as telling his crew during the Twin Peaks capture in 2010] but here are more foals with a similar injuries at the Litchfield holding facility that same week:

    Complete and utter animal abuse and I will never be convinced otherwise.


    • The day my partner and I were at the Twin Peaks roundup…we saw so many come down off that mountain and far too many babies, but what wreaks me – even now – is the little family that got away, going all the way back up and over that mountain, only to be chased back down again. That baby must have put 25 miles on those little feet in less than 2 hours. If he survived, he was lame; if he was lame, what level of care did he receive, just one among hundreds with a thousand more to come?

      The terrain up there is no joke. Even on a level expanse of ground, lava rock is everywhere. And I don’t care what the Bureau considers ‘humane’ or ‘natural behavior’, wild horses would have no reason to sustain a canter across the landscape for five or more miles.

      We’re right to be concerned about the methods in dealing with infants and the very young; they don’t COUNT as horses or burros until the Bureau says they do. And you have to ask yourself – why would AA and Deb Coffey have to FOIA this information – mortality in a holding facility? What’s the big frickin’ secret? It isn’t like we don’t understand – these animals die, for many and varied reasons that might not necessarily have a dark back story.

      We may not care to know how the departed are handled, but we should know how many die in a given period – without having to become private investigators. If these animals dying are as a direct result of shoddy care or tainted food or countless other issues inherent to holding facilities, then fix those issues.

      What exactly are these facilities getting paid for?


      • Per FOIA, 138 WH&B died within the first year after that roundup and 26 were listed as foals plus another 14 that died within a month from their capture and had not been aged yet and some were likely the foals that we speak of. Many died (or were euthanized) because of fractures – head, spine, leg and lameness.

        I think I see on the list the foal you speak of, Lisa. It died the next day from “lameness” … and the foal was a little filly….

        So so so wrong.


  7. Oh heavens. I haven’t read the report. But some of the comments remind me of when Terri Farley found Medicine Hat Man. Then he disappeared. Do you guys remember? A few weeks later Medicine Hat Man was found with the women. It turned out that private area was in fact teats and not male. So Medicine Hat Man became Medicine Hat Woman. Don’t these “cowboys” know the difference between male and female parts????

    Later MHW at first was listed as about 7, then when Terri went to bid she was deemed to be 15 or so–sale authority. MHW was checked AFTER Terri brought her to Wild Horse Sanctuary where she was deemed under sale authority age.

    And we won’t ever see BLM accept blame for roundups being cruel. They’ll always manage a way to shove it off onto someone else. Because to accept blame makes them open to lawsuits etc.

    Geez, if there was ever a way for them to change what they do and why–with no consequences (lawsuits)this is the time for change. No more hotshots. No more splitting bands up the very second they come into the trap. No more splitting babies and momma’s up, hoping when they get to holding they’ll pair up again.

    As bad as PZP is I would far rather have the horses darted (provided it can be done in a safe manner without sterilization). It’s better for the horses. No it isn’t pretty to watch a mountain lion taking down an animal but it is MOTHER NATURE’S way.

    And I have questions about the horses they say are thin. What constitutes thin by BLM standards? I know Henneke scale. But without Humane Observers BLM can say whatever they want and no one will be the wiser. Or so the thought is.

    The rendering plant issue is something someone should look into. I don’t know how to do this kind of investigation. But remember back when that paper from New York came out and got it on tape Dave Cattoor telling his contractors about hiding horses that had died out on the range. Remember how he said “same as, same as” That tape. I’m wondering if that isn’t going to resurface.

    Other questions should be being asked. If Reno has this horse rendering plant that BLM has a contract with–where does that meat go? Into human consumption food source? Does it go to zoo’s? Where exactly does that meat go? We know that BLM worms those horses immediately. Are the horses there killing do they have any of these illegal medications in them??? How do we find out.


    • Most rendering plants don’t use the meat fire any type of consumption. They break it all down to make things like fertilizer for crops (just one example). That’s why they accept humanely euthanized horses (lethal injection by a vet) and other products like used cooking oil from restaurants.


      • BLM shoots horses for euthanasia. Or they tie up domesticate animals right on the other side of the fence from the studs.


  8. It makes me sick to my stomach to read this. They are such liars and full of bs. They probably killed the babies so that they could reduce the number that they had to keep for adoption. OK so now we have another business who is benefitting from our poor Wild Horses and Burros..This needs to be TOTALLY exposed. Lets get these facts over to MS Jewell. I think she is getting more than she bargained for here. They are all on the gravy train here. I am passing this along to all of my Legislators…Again, who is footing the bill here? How do these people sleep at night, especially the ones that KILL the do you walk away from any of them especially a helpless foal…God, I’m sure that someone would have been there to help them and care for them. They have no regard for life…I hope that they all rot in Hell..


  9. The more we learn the more we realize we have not uncovered. The renderers reports were important. Thank you all for going down this road. WHat are we to do knowing each day we will be losing our wild ones in captivity? They are not safe anywhere. We have known this a long time. Our foals have somehow been killed off because they were not worth caring for. Their legacy cut short. We need to stop all movement of wild horses. Dead and alive. We need public witnesses and we need a court order to sop this horror and abuse now. All over.

    Every wild horse and burro you are taking from it’s wild home is being stolen from the public. BLM has broken trust with the public repeatedly. Stop, BLM. NOW!


  10. Public Radio blows it—
    Advocates —I did a slow burn listening to PRI’s Marco Werman on “the World” make a sly and smirky investigation into the repercussions of the horse meat scandal in Europe. He interviews a purveyor of “Exotic Meats” who claims the scandal has resulted in a huge increase of sales in horse meat for his “business”, which Mr Werman seemed to find quirky and delightful. The interviewee actually made a slight reference to the safety and inspection process, the vaunted “passport system” which has been shown to be corrupted and fraudulent, but Werman failed to question this or follow the clue. Please listen and send remarks to the PRI site or Werman’s FB site—I did, and roundly excoriated his pathetic story, setting him straight on some of the public health facts.


  11. NOT in BLMS defense in ANY WAY…

    but I wanted to comment. I monitor the PVC almost daily since I live but a stones throw away. I don’t see many deceased adult horses??? maybe they clean them up before I get a look see, . however… when it’s foaling season I have seen as many as 14 deceased babies being taken out of pens at one time.

    The mares due to being separated from their own bands are not comfortable in the pens and will abandon foals after birthing. Babies can get caught in the middle of mares fighting over food or protecting their own, trampled before the newborns have a chance to stand and nurse and get their ground legs… (since there is no where ‘private’ to foal), some are premature, AND due to stress conditions being in holding not all mares produce milk. I’ve seen several ‘weak’ foals born and wonder what happens to them when I check back on them and they are not there.

    I have noticed that BLM has taken OUT the feeding troughs in the mares pens and feed them on the ground as of last year. Maybe that is to reduce foals being injured or killed while their dams push their way into the trough to get food?

    I KNOW that there are a couple of groups who take the orphaned or abandoned foals from BLM … One of which is Dawn Lappin’s group W.H.O.A …. depending on where the round ups have occurred I have seen her rescue as many as 68 babies at one time, (from a Nellis round up) . She and her group care for the foals and do try to place them with good homes.

    Having raised an orphaned baby from PVC before, I know there are many reasons for the babies not surviving. My boys dam was killed when wranglers moved pairs from one pen to another, I got him when he was 10 days old …. I was lucky mine did survive and lived to be 24 years old, when he twisted a colic and I had him euthanized…. but for many babies they aren’t so lucky.

    Babies in the wild have a high mortality rate also due to the ‘non exsistant’ predators that the BLM likes to brag about…. with domestic horses there is NO such thing as 100% conception to birth rate… it’s only like 73% and with wild ones, so much more goes into the equation for that foal to be born and survive for to it’s first year. Abortions are high depending on weather, water and forage resources as well as condition and age of the mare….survival rate in the wild is like 47%.


  12. With the survival rate in the wild at 47%, these horrible people still complain of the over population of wild horses. Just terrible. Not only does Salazar have to answer, but what about the USDA and what they allow the Fish and Wildlife people to do with our wild ones.



    BLM: Young wild horses available for adoption


    By Steve Bertel
    CREATED FEB. 11, 2013
    Twelve wild horse weanlings — mostly fillies under the age of one year — from the Challis Herd Management Area are now available for adoption at the Boise Wild Horse Corrals, according to officials of the Bureau of Land Management.
    The horses were gathered in October 2012. They were cared for at the Challis Wild Horse Corrals until mid-January, when they were transported to Boise.
    To give interested people an opportunity to view and possibly adopt the wild horses, the BLM Boise District will host a walk-up adoption on Friday, February 15 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
    Officials said this will be a first-come, first-served adoption at the Boise Wild Horse Corrals off Pleasant Valley Road. The adoption fee will be $75.
    Following the walk-up adoption event, horses may be adopted at a later date by setting up an appointment with BLM Wild Horse and Burro Specialist Steve Leonard. If you are interested in viewing the horses, call Steve at (208) 384-3300.
    To adopt a wild horse, the BLM said, you must be 18 years old, never have been convicted of animal abuse or cruelty, and have the proper facilities and transportation. No animal will be loaded in an unsafe trailer. All individuals must be pre-approved before they can bid on a horse. Applications may be filled out at the adoption and approved onsite.
    “All of the animals available for adoption have been de-wormed and have received vaccinations for common equine conditions and diseases,” said Leonard. “Adopters will receive complete health care records as well as herd management and other equine information for their newly adopted animals.”
    For the safety of the horses, the BLM suggests using stock trailers with side-swinging gates. Trailers with center dividers are acceptable, but multiple dividers must be removed before horses can be transported in the trailer. The BLM will not load horses into two horse trailers or trailers with ramps.
    For more information on the Wild Horse and Burro Program and requirements for adoption, call 1-866-4MUSTANGS, (866)-468-7826 or visit the Bureau of Land Management website at:


  14. One reason to underreport deaths of adult horses is that the LTH contractors would still get their $450/year+/- payment for feeding these horses… until someone actually discovers the horses are gone. It’s kind of like medical facilities that charge Medicaid for nonexistent patients… i.e. FRAUD.




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