Horse Health

Are Nevada’s Wild Horses Headed for Slaughterhouses?

Source:  By Kristina Pepelko of One Green Planet

Isn’t the BLM’s mission is “to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of public lands?”

BLM attacking wild horses in Nevada ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BLM attacking wild horses in Nevada ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has planned another round-up and sale of Nevada’s wild horses—moves that may place these animals in the hands of kill buyers who sell horses to slaughter houses.

Such round-ups have been occurring for decades under the premise of population control and a way to save horses from poor conditions associated with overpopulation and drought.

According to Magic Valley, the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council reported that the BLM has removed 8,000 horses on average from wild lands each year between 2002 and 2011. This year, the number of animals in BLM holding facilities outnumbers those left on ranges in the West.

A critic of the BLM’s management plan, Arizona Representative Raul M. Grijalva, a ranking member of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulations, has been following this issue for the past ten years. He stated (via Magic Valley) that even livestock numbers are far above those of mustangs by a margin of three-to-one or more on federal lands designated as horse management areas.

These facts are quite staggering. What’s even more shocking is the amount of money pumped into this management plan. In 2012 the BLM spent more than $40 million of its $72 million budget just on holding facilities, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council also noted in their 451-page report that the BLM’s management plan may actually have the opposite effect of its intention.  By stepping in prematurely when resources, including food and water, are plentiful, the BLM may be producing artificial conditions that perpetuate population growth, reports Magic Valley.

Now that we’ve got a bit of background information out of the way, let’s turn our attention to Nevada’s new wild horse round-up plan.

A removal of all wild horses and burros within five years from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge on the Nevada-Utah border has been approved, reports the Associated Press via the Review Journal.

What’s the reason for this extreme removal? Well, according to Joan Jewett, spokeswoman for the FAO in Portland, Ore., apparently the refuge was created just for pronghorn antelope and other native wildlife and so these horses and burros have a negative effect on the habitat (via Review Journal).

This seems quite hard to believe. But apparently not to a Federal judge who ruled, just this past Friday, that the government can go ahead and sell 400 mustangs from the wildlife refuge to a private contractor in Mississippi—the same private contractor that has kept faulty adoption records in the past.

J&S Associates (the Mississippi contractor in question) has been unable to account for the whereabouts of more than half of the 262 horses purchased from the government since 2010, reports KSL. Horse advocates have reason to believe that some of these horses have been sold to out-of-state slaughter houses and as the round-ups continue, more can be placed in this danger.

According to another KSL story, new rules have been added that require additional screenings of prospective adopters and full reporting of horse disposition data, including contact information for all adopters.

This may put some at ease but these new rules can’t necessarily ensure that our country’s wild horses are not ending up across the border in horrific horse slaughter plants.

Moreover, the amount of money spent to keep these horses corralled up is quite simply, ridiculous. Isn’t the BLM’s mission is “to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of public lands”? Aren’t wild horses a part of this health, diversity and productivity too?

It seems that Nevada’s wild horse round-up and others are a case of mismanagement and show a lack of understanding about this wild breed—a species that is ultimately meant to be in the wild, and not in the hands of people.

9 replies »

  1. The refuge was created to protect the other ‘native’ wildlife? Horses had been there long before the refuge was even an idea. They also want to protect ‘native’ bighorns?????? Bighorns came across the land bridge from Asia. So how are they more ‘native’ than the “Feral” horses? They want the land for exploration of gas and oil…they already are putting leases up for sale just 40 miles north on BLM land.

    This process where they get to say what’s ‘native’ and what’s not is BS. They have to use Sally Jewell’s favorite “best available science” and make their ‘rules’ accordingly.

    Will they do that? What do you think?


  2. They’ve Been Changing The Rules To Suit Themselves All Along. We All Know That They Are A Corrupt Sector Of Government.


  3. Well I heard the recent “Diamond Herd” that was up for adoption was moved and no one knows anything??
    They are the most Beautiful I’ve seen…
    People need to take a look at them, that’s if a contractor hasn’t already sent them off to slaughter.
    The BLM is out of Control!


    • You are so correct the BLM is out of control. They have way to much power to make decisions like removing wild horses off of their ranges. Dismantling the herds and their families. The BLM and all others involved must be stopped. The agency and all government agencies involved with the removal of wild horses want to deceive and trick the public into thinking that they are actually assisting the wild horses. The American public wants to know the truth about the wild horses on government land; not the lies to justify the BLM of their unGodly acts against the wild horses.


  4. Assuming their absurd assessment would even be valid for the Pronghorn, then the next logical step would be to move the equines to another wild area.

    This department is exasperatingly stupid or lies to cover up the real reason


    • R&Z you’re right. As a matter of fact when I was dealing with them last year when this was still in discussion they told me that the land through which the road ran to the refuge had wild horses on it so they didn’t feel it so necessary for visitors to come to Sheldon to see wild horses.

      Our friends that live in the area have also posted that it is common to see the pronghorn grazing in among the horses and that this year the pronghorn are quite healthy and plentiful.

      So why aren’t they picking up pronghorns?


  5. According to the Blm Govt Pge,Jewel has found $40 million dollars to go towards expanding hunting and fishing on refuge lands. Whats the point of proclaiming any lands a “refuge” if you are selling permits to hunt the creatures there?Of course they are leaving pronghorns and big horns ,etc out there. The hunters will be plentiful.


  6. I found this 2012 abstract today (see pg. 34) with data comparing areas where horses were removed and where they remained within the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge. The researchers conclude “With nearly all differences we found higher plant production (forage availability) on the site where horses were still present.”

    International Wild Equid Conference
    Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine Contributed Presentation
    Stable Isotope Diet Reconstruction of Feral Horses (Equus caballus) on the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada, USA
    Megan K. Nordquist, Steven L. Petersen, Todd F. Robinson, and Gail Collins
    Feral horse management has become a subject of significant controversy in the United States. This is because of differing opinions and minimal recent empirical data on feral horses. In recent years, numbers of feral horses have increased due to governmental horse removal restrictions (specifically the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971). With increasing numbers of feral horses on rangelands, land managers are challenged with identifying the appropriate course of action for satisfying groups with differing opinions. The purpose of this study is to characterize diet consumption through the use of stable isotope dietary analysis (δ15N and δ13C). We did this in order to measure the impact of feral horse forage consumption on rangelands and to propose strategies for improving habitat management and conservation. We obtained tail hair isotopic values from tail hair removed while horses that were held in squeeze chutes following a roundup. Resulting isotopic values were compared to plant isotopic values using plant samples obtained from the geographical areas as the horses in order to characterize diet. Contribution of the various plant species to the tail hair mixture values was determined using the EPA program IsoSource©. Initial analysis of tail hair isotopes demonstrated seasonal variation. During summer months, shrubs (mostly Artemesia spp, and Purshia tridentate), Elymus elymoides, Juncus balticus, and Festuca idahoensis were the predominantly consumed vegetative species. During fall months, Leymus cinereus and Juncus balticus played a more significant role in feral horse diet. In the winter, shrubs were more heavily consumed along with Poa secunda. Springtime showed a shift towards forb consumption. Changes in seasonal consumption of forages are most likely linked to forage availability as well as equine preference. We analyzed plant metrics (specifically biomass, abundance, and cover) to compare a site with horses present to a site where horses had been removed the previous year and found relatively few differences between the two sites. With nearly all differences we found higher plant production (forage availability) on the site where horses were still present. In riparian areas however, there was more vegetation (specifically Carex rossii, Juncus balticus, and Poa secunda) on the site where horses had been removed. Within riparian areas, only Bromus tectorum (a plant not typically found in riparian areas but characteristic of degraded areas) showed significantly greater amounts of biomass on the site with horses present. Knowledge of plant species consumption will allow land managers greater ability to make scientifically based decisions regarding feral horse population control which is important in determining appropriate management levels of populations.
    Corresponding author: Megan K. Nordquist
    Brigham Young University 346 WIDB Provo, Utah 84602 USA
    Tel: +1.801.850.8211 E-mail:



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