Part 2: BLM and Fish & Wildlife Service Experimenting on Wild Horses

“Sorry to post this article on “Feel good Sunday,” but with the BLM’s National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board meeting starting on Monday, we thought it best to share this information with the public as soon as possible.” ~ Deb

By Debbie Coffey           Copyright 2013          All Rights Reserved.

(If you missed Part 1, click here

This article includes documented information obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the BLM, on the field spaying of mares, vasectomies and chemical vasectomies, so that the public can learn more about the experimentation on feral (and wild) horses.

The “Sheldon horses and burros” are on the Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, and are designated as “feral.”  Feral horses are not protected by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burros Act of 1971.  (Wild horses are barely protected by this act, either.)

The BLM is partnering with Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), another Department of the Interior agency, and field spaying and vasectomies will likely be discussed at the upcoming BLM National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board meeting Sept. 9-11 in Arlington, Virginia.

What you’ll see in the documents at the bottom of this article seem to indicate that there has been experimentation without properly planned protocols (which should’ve included having medication at the site in case of an adverse reaction to any drugs) and with haphazard (if any at all) monitoring after the procedures.  It seems as if the BLM is fishing for “inferences” to push these FWS experiments as a “tool in their toolbox” for population control of wild horses.

BLM should be doing ON THE RANGE MANAGEMENT OF VIABLE HERDS.  Most herds are NOT viable.  Stay on this point:  Should BLM even be doing population control/fertility control on NON-VIABLE HERDS?

It is important to note that the Fish & Wildlife Service has been field spaying PREGNANT mares, in different trimesters of pregnancy.  Mares that are NOT pregnant are called “open.”  In a 6/15/2009 e-mail that Brian Day (FWS) sent to Paul Steblein, Rob Bundy and Gail Collins of the FWS, he said if he “remembered correctly,” during the 1st trimester (less than 112 days), the “disturbance generally causes the re-absorbtion of the fetus.”  During the 2nd trimester (112-224 days) the spaying may “cause abortion.”  And in the 3rd trimester (225-335 days) the fetus/foal “likely completes term.”

However, was this information based on feral and wild mares or only domestic mares?  Was this information based only on Peilstick’s studies?  What studies were done on foal survival if the mares weren’t being monitored after the procedure (to know how many foals were born or died in the wild?)  Seeing a few foals alive from an aerial survey and assuming all of the foals survived is not a scientific approach.

I’ve posted the links to 24 FOIA documents at the bottom of this article.   Here are a few highlights and comments:

1)     In a 7/28/2008 e-mail from Paul Steblein, who was then the Project Leader of the Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, to Leon Pielstick (the veterinarian noted in Part 1), Gail Collins (FWS, who has also been attending the BLM’s Modoc/Washoe Experimental Stewardship Program meetings in northern CA), Brian Day (FWS) and Rob Bundy (FWS) stating that ovariectomies would cost $200 (with 4 hours next to this cost).

However, in Part 1 of this series, the presentation by Leon Pielstick claimed that colpotomies took less than 5 minutes of surgery time, and “about 15 minutes for restraint, sedation, prep AND procedure.”   It also seems to only take about 5 minutes to apply a freezemark.  So how does 20 minutes add up to 4 hours?

This e-mail also notes that the mares and studs would be turned out immediately after procedure, because there would be “less chance of antagonistic interactions.”  (You might wonder if the mares might also have been turned out to avoid/skew negative data about the procedure.)

2)    In a 7/16/2008 e-mail from Paul Steblein to the same FWS employees above, Steblein noted that in a contraception study (most likely the one done in 2007) there were 2 fatalities from the ovariectomy procedure out of 35 mares.  (However, it seems Steiblein’s information was incorrect, because in Leon Pielstick’s 2010 Proposal for Collaborative Research Effort/Grant application, Pielstick stated that he spayed 33 mares with 2 fatalities in 2007.)

Steiblein noted that Pielstick thinks he can reduce mortality by abandoning the procedure if he “encounters uncertainties” for example, if he can’t be sure the organ he is feeling is an ovary or just stool in the colon.

Stublein noted that there is “greater emotional risk of public with sterilizing mares versus studs.”   (What is “emotional risk,” anyhow?  Taxpayers getting fed up with money being wasted on Dr. Mengele type experiments?)

He also noted “there are always biases in data.”  (We can see that.)

3)    In a 10/21/09 e-mail Ms. Gail Collins (FWS) sent to Dean Bolstad, then Deputy Division Chief of the Wild Horse & Burro Program, answering some questions he had asked about their horse sterilization program.  The answer to #2 states they (FWS) “don’t track bands as they come into the trap, so we don’t have a definitive way of identifying the lead studs.”  She then noted that in an aerial survey, that there were studs they were unable to identify from the air as sterilized studs.  In answer #4 she noted the aerial surveys were to monitor wildlife, and they were limited by funding and personnel.

(A year later in an 8/17/2010 e-mail from Collins to Bolstad, she noted that “We have no data directly investigating the mortalities after the mares were released.  In July 2010 we incidentally observed about half of the spayed mares during our annual pronghorn survey…However, it is important to note that horses were not the primary focus of that effort, and we were not specifically looking for the sterilized individuals.)

Collins also noted mares were kept in corrals for 24-48 hours after they were spayed, and were then released.  She stated “There has been no direct monitoring of the mares since their release.”  She gave the details about the arrow brands used for monitoring the horses:  the arrow points towards the tail of spayed mares, the arrow points up for vasectomized studs and the arrow points down for geldings.

There is also an e-mail from Stublein to Dean Bolstad, telling Bolstad he was pleased with “the emergence of an interagency partnership.” Stublein then seemed to stress “As I mentioned last week, this is a working experiment versus research project dues to lack of staff and funds.”  (So, Dean Bolstad was aware the word “experiment” was used.)

4)    In a 10/22/2009 e-mail from Dean Bolstad to Gail Collins, he states “I know this isn’t a research project” and asks if “maybe inferences can be made” about the data on spayed mares.  Bolstad then noted “I’m not sure how you could measure this at this point in your work unless you were able to count surviving mares in the field.  It would be pretty hard considering the difficulty of reading your arrows and the expanse of the country they live in.”

Gail Collins answered that “While it is not ideal” they made some inferences regarding the foaling data.  Collins also noted that testing the safety of mares in the field would be tested in a proposal that was a controlled experiment.  (Note the use of the word “experiment” again.)

5)    In a 8/17/2010 e-mail from Pielstick to Dean Bolstad, Pielstick noted that horses were spayed at a private ranch called Wild Horse Sanctuary in Shingletown, CA.  Pielstick also noted he received a letter of support from Dr. Eric Davis, an equine surgeon who “works for the HSUS.”

6)    In a 4/7/2010 letter to Alan Shepherd (BLM) from Melinda McDonald, DVM, of U.C. Davis, who noted that wild mares being spayed were “fractious and did fight the restraint of being confined in a chute.”  McDonald noted “There is no question that colpotomy is a surgery which carries substantial patient risks, as does any form of ovariectomy in horses.  Here at UC Davis, we have observed a number of post-operative complications in mares following ovariectomy performed via laparotomy, laparocopy or colpotomy.”

She then praised Pielstick’s experience.  (However, Pielstick is gaining his experience using wild and feral horses.  These are trials.  And other vets may not be as experienced.)

7)    In a 4/27/2010 letter, Dianne Nelson, President of Wild Horse Sanctuary in Shingletown, CA states she supports spaying mares as part of BLM’s wild horse management.

8)    In a 12/19/2011 e-mail from Gail Collins (FWS) to Alan Shepherd (BLM) copying John Kasbohm (FWS and current Project lead) and Damien Miller (FWS), Collins noted about spays that “Per veterinarian recommendation, the mares were held at the processing facility on average 8.1 days following the procedure before release back onto the refuge.

And about vasectomies, “Per veterinarian recommendations, the studs were held at the processing facility on average 3.2 days following the procedure before release back onto the refuge.”

And about geldings “Per veterinary recommendations, the geldings were held at the processing facility on average 19.6 days following the procedure before shipping.”

But, there was no indication of monitoring them on the range afterwards.

9)    In an August, 2011 Independent Assessment of a roundup at Sheldon by Julie M. Weikel, DVM, she  stated that 71 studs were chemically vasectomized on August 24 and 25, 2011.  She also noted one stud died of anaphylaxis from a tetanus toxoid injection.

Also, 32 mares were spayed on August 29th and released on August 30th.  She stated “The spaying of mares was observed by professional management and veterinary personnel from the BLM Palomino facility.”  (Could this have included BLM Palomino Valley manager John Neill and Richard Sanford, the vet for BLM’s Palomino Valley and Indian Lakes Road facilities?)

It seems that chemical vasectomies (also called Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance – RISUG) for horses are also experimental.  The USDA only lists research on chemical vasectomies for dogs and cats, but not for horses.

10) Included is an invoice from the Harney County Veterinary Clinic, owned by Leon Pielstick, so you can see where some of your tax dollars went.

Please show up at the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting.  The public comment time will be on Sept. 10th starting at 3 p.m. (and you have to “register” before 2 p.m. if you want to make a public comment).  Make your voices heard.  Stress ON THE RANGE MANAGEMENT OF VIABLE HERDS.  Ask that this BLM Advisory Board, and the BLM, to give the public proof that all of the herds are VIABLE.  There will be a live stream of the meeting for people to watch online (we’ll post a link to the live stream).


























9 comments on “Part 2: BLM and Fish & Wildlife Service Experimenting on Wild Horses

  1. What Ms Coffey continues to reveal and inform the US public about is that Feds and States are operating outside of the law…………and no one in charge gives a $**T! Actually, those in charge are getting monies to ignore this outrage and violation of law(s). And technically, WE THE PEOPLE ARE IN CHARGE!

    Thanks again Ms Coffey. Now if we can just find a solution in time.


    • A few days ago-Louis C. posted the 6 part “stampede to oblivian” after watching and seeing the date this was made 5 and more years ago and seeing all the people in the video that are so much more knowlegeable than most of us are and all the contributors to RT’s articles and evn Arlene who lhas stated on many occasions that shee has been fighting for the horses for 20 years-I wonder how long this can go on? Our government has stated zero out the horses-how many are aware that our world leaders have stated that the population should be redced by 80%-we have advocates in the field who eye witness what is happening to our horses, they take photos, make videos, and write reports-nothing from our government-and the horses are just one aspect of what is happening-when our horses are rounded up does one person step in to stop the round up-I have to say no because I have never heard of one-we are losing not just our animals and our freedoms in this country-we are divided by race,religion,class,and country-when obama was first elected eric holder said of their opponents are he stabbed a knife in the table “die” “die” “die”-if they bring a knife to the fight we will bring a gun-and last but not least exactly what our government thinks aabout us as holder stated the American people are a bunch of couwards-are we? Most of us sit on our computer and post articles,sign petitions, email our representatives, and hope that this in some way will help a horse-but do we actually stand in the way of this atrocity-if they come and take your neighbor will you stand by or will you do something? Our government is capable of way more than we think they are-we are losing every day-and if we think for one minute it will stop with the animals-you may want to read this articles, becase they do not care about human life that opposes them, stands in their way, or does not believe the way they want you to believe- our horses are being subjected to everything the Nazis did in the concentration camps-now read and find our our government was no better than the Nazi-if we cannot stand up for the horse will we sand up for ourselves?
      because I cannot see my rant for the day I hope it is not to all over the board. Just saying that when the horses are gone who will be next.


      • I guess we cannot post history and the atrocities of “our” government-if you would like to see that our government had their own concentration camps and were no better than the Nazis where humans were concerned you will have to google~~~Eisenhowe’s death camps~~~ and or ~~~Rhine meadow camps~~~ and see for yourself just what our government is capable of.


    Corruption of The W.H. & B. Act of 1971 Needs to End (excerpts)

    “The Federal court cases alone demonstrate beyond a doubt this is reality, and at heavy cost to taxpayers, yet ignored and replaced by misinformation and outright lies to the public, cloaked in some type of odd reasoning with hopes the public will accept it! The Public HAS NOT!”

    Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, and the corruption within, is discussed here. Indeed a noble Congressional situation and passed unanimously at the time. The spirit was a good-faith gesture, by Law, toward America’s Wild Horse Herds — But something happened, something terrible happened, and it involved corruption from the top down, and terms of “Acceptable Abuse” which changed everything:

    Congressional findings and declaration of policy, and states clearly:

    “Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”

    Public Lands and Range Mangers do have access to wildlife that is beneficial to America’s Ecological systems. It can be attributable to a “language of protection” toward our environment (which includes Wild Horse Herds), if they are qualified to observe these situations. Most of them are not qualified, SO GOOD MANAGEMENT IS CURRENTLY NON-EXIXTENT!

    Listening and observing what our natural environment has to tell us is of significance, always. A point of discussion currently that is picking up momentum within the environmental community is the fact of how we identify the difference between a technical report generated by a political agenda — compared to a technical report that positively approaches resolution toward solving a serious environmental or wildlife issue of concern.

    Yes, we can use the wild horse herds to let us know of ecological viability within many ecological systems, simply by their presence and health. Ironically, to many environmentalists, to include terrestrial and wildlife research biologists, government agencies and their consultants ignore this situation.

    This is due to government employees lack of qualifications to manage our Public Lands; due to lack of ingenuity and competence to tell the truth; and, due to our present government employees LACK OF ETHICS AND RESPONSIBILITY IN SAFE-GUARDING TAXPAYER MONEY.


  3. This is a veterinarian doing experimental surgery on a protected species. The wild horse needs proper management not this huge smoke screen that their populations are out of control.

    Get behind science. Get behind a census and a Moratorium. Stop BLM and all these gov’mint agencies from handling our wild equines!


    • FWS is the worst of a bad lot. They have been working with citizen groups to eradicate our wild horses on the basis of their non-native, invasive, feral, exotic, alien, pest (of plants—no less) status since the 1970’s. They have been complicit in spreading the political labels around as if they represented science, which they do not. There is no respected science that finds our horses non-native, invasive, alien, species. In fact the NAS report used an email to Beth Shapiro at Penn State who is the 41st contributor for the story—her contribution obviously being how to talk about our native horses without admitting that they were and are the genetic equivalent of Equus caballus. She made up a species that does not actually exist (Equus ferus) just means wild horse and there is no such species in the GenBank. Then in the study of all these animals like reindeer, muskox, rabbits, mammoth, musk ox, and horse from the Pleistocene she qualified only one of them as the wild horse. Why not wild reindeer, wild bison, wild mammoth—if there were no humans until the last 10,000 to 13,000 years wouldn’t they all be wild? Then in the supporting information 2.1 they admit that Equus ferus is equivalent to Equus lambei. We know that Equus lambei is the equivalent of Equus caballus at the species level.

      In fact, the research that Dr. Shapiro was involved in can be found in the November 2, 2011 issue of Nature. It is titled “Species Specific reasons for large mammal extinction”. The authors conclude there there were no genetic differences between extant species that became extinct and those that survived. This is the key point. The species were the same in North America as they were in Europe. Therefore, genetics were not involved in extinction. Whether they eveolved into separate species or not afterward would be irrelevant.

      I guess the fact that the PNAS where the original myth maker of the wild horse as non-native, invasive, alien, feral, pest species is currently employed would find out a way to protect the prevaricating too President Clinton and Vice-President Gore left in place to protect their ability to make millions selling air. What a scam!


    War of Attrition — Sabotage of the Endangered Series Act by the U.S. Department of Interior (December 1997)

    The U.S. Department of the Interior consistently ignores its own scientists’ recommendations to list species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). To stall discussion and shift the burden, the Department of the Interior is waiting for Congressional approval for a reauthorization bill that would greatly weaken the act.


    [Federal Register Volume 78, Number 129 (Friday, July 5, 2013)]

    “Ruby applied to the BLM for a ROW grant for the Ruby Pipeline Project on December 3, 2007.
    The Federal lands crossed or used as access for the project include lands
    managed by the BLM; Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation);
    the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Sheldon National Wildlife

    SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of
    1969, as amended (NEPA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act
    of 1976, as amended, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has prepared a
    Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Ruby
    Pipeline Project and by this notice is announcing the opening of the
    comment period.

    Ruby applied to the BLM for a ROW grant for the Ruby Pipeline Project on December 3, 2007. The Federal lands crossed or used as access for the project include lands
    managed by the BLM; Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation); the United
    States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Sheldon National Wildlife
    Refuge; and the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
    (USFS), specifically the Fremont-Winema National Forests, the Uinta-
    Wasatch-Cache National Forest, and the Modoc National Forest. Based on
    the Final EIS issued by the FERC, the BLM issued a Ruby Pipeline
    Project Record of Decision (ROD) and ROW grant for the use of lands
    under the administration of the BLM, Reclamation, USFWS, and the USFS
    on July 12, 2010.


Care to make a comment?

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

You are commenting using your 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