Horse Health

80 Mustangs Die After Move To Scott City

(To read the article referenced in the article below, titled “Wild Horses of the Flint Hills,” click HERE.)

SOURCE:  KMUW.org

Fury and her mare buddies at the Flint Hills ranch, Feb. 2014 – This summer they were removed to the Scott City feed lot.  Eighty of them perished.
Credit Aileen LeBlanc

You may remember a story that we did in February called “Wild Horses of the Flint Hills.”  It was a story of thousands of wild mustangs which were roaming almost free in vast ranches in the Flint Hills near Cassoday, Kansas.  They originally came from the open ranges of the West and they were brought here because of over crowding.  They are managed by the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

When we were there in February, the horses were all looking healthy–even a little plump.  And now, 80 of them are dead.

“Fury” in the Flint Hills, photo taken in February 2014
Credit Aileen LeBlanc

“The horses had to be removed from a private ranch where they had been held for a number of years under contract.  And that rancher elected not to renew his contract with the government,” said Paul McGuire.  “So BLM was obligated to remove those animals and find another home for them.”

Paul McGuire is with the BLM based in Oklahoma City. Fourteen-hundred and ninety-three mares were moved–200 a day–on semis beginning in the middle of June.

“The first full-month report we had from the facilitator operator came at the end of July.  And it was at that time that we saw numbers on the order of about 47 horses had either died or had to be put down during that time,” said McGuire.  “Those are the numbers that, when they came to BLM’s attention, our leadership immediately dispatched a team to look into that and figure out what was going on and halt it.”

But it didn’t stop at 47.  The horses continued to die in the corral.  Some were too weak to get up and had to be euthanized.  These are the same horses that had lived in the Flint Hills pasture for 14 years.

The feed lot in Scott City is a lot that is used to taking care of cattle and some bison, but not horses who are unaccustomed to being penned, traveling in semi-trucks in the summer, or eating from a bunk or trough.

Video of the Scott City feed lot courtesy of BLM.

“In a feed lot, the horses have to push their way to the bunk, and in some cases, compete for space,” said McGuire.  “You have situations of dominant horses maybe keeping more timid horses back.  And that behavioral dynamic was found to have been what was really at play, or suspected to be what was the cause some of these horses not adapting well to that new environment.”

The inspection team included a vet from the USDA, and though their findings are preliminary, the changes that they made include a different blend and portion of feed.  But the shock of relocation and adjustments to the new home were determined to be the causes of death.

Mares at a lake in the Flint Hills. This photo was taken for our “Wild Horses of the Flint Hills” story which aired in February 2014.
Credit Aileen LeBlanc
 The mustangs began their lives as free roaming animals and have never been broken or gentled, ridden or been hitched to a cart. They like the humans who feed them in the winter–but that’s about it. On the pasture there are many stands of trees, lakes, hills, and valleys. At the corral there is no shelter, no shade. The BLM found that heat has not been a factor. Stephanie Boyles Griffin, senior director of innovative wildlife management with the Humane Society of the United States disagrees.

“We have been stressing since last summer that the BLM has to provide shade for animals that are at a government holding facility–either a long-term holding facility or a short-term.  Adopters are required to provide those animals with shade,” said Boyles Griffin.  “They’re currently doing a study to see if shade is necessary at the Palomino Valley facility outside of Reno, NV, and we all said this is ridiculous.  And again, it speaks to the need for a comprehensive animal welfare program.  If they can’t even make a decision to provide animals with shade without having doing a study, there’s clearly a disconnect between the BLM and identifying just common basic needs of animals they hold in captive holding facilities.”

Paul McGuire of the Bureau of Land Management says that the situation at the Scott City feed lot has stabilized, and that they are trying to secure pastures for the remaining mares.

The “Wild Horses of the Flint Hills” video was shot by Aileen LeBlanc in February 2014. 

23 replies »

  1. Fourteen-hundred and ninety-three mares were moved–200 a day–on semis beginning in the middle of June.

    These poor animals would have been overheated, frightened, and who knows if they even had enough water. Complete idiocy, and nobody cares.

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  2. See, it’s stories like this that get me going! If the BLM knew something wasn’t right, you don’t just go look into it, you fix it! That is no life for those horses, it breaks my heart, & probably theirs too, that could partially explain why so many have died!! After living almost free, & having wide open spaces, to being packed into & trucked in semi’s, 200 at a time, & thrown into some strange, barren, fenced in, stock pens, that is traumatic! That is unacceptable! And, by the way, just a little “FYI” heads up, for “anyone” reading these posts & comments, you have a rat or rats among your ranks (&, YOU know who you are!)! “They” ARE reading what we write, “they” are getting reports, we are getting “their” attention, “they” are listening, whether we know it or not…..trust me, I have first hand experience. Yes, even innocent “little old me”, living in a quaint little suburb of St. Louis, Mo., isn’t that right, my new “friends” from the BLM & the DOI,?? Be very watchful & careful of what you comment on here, apparently, it’s gotten their attention in a big way, maybe, “they’re” getting worried, LOL!! That’s all, & if you share, I don’t care! I will continue doing whatever I feasibly can do to help, support, & fight for, OUR AMERICAN WILD HORSES & BURROS!! Have a great day! 🙂 And, they wonder why we get so riled up! Oh, I suggested maybe they should partner up with, & work with, instead of against, REAL horse experts, & successful wild horse sanctuaries, & maybe even hire some wild horse advocates to help bridge the gaps & help as a go between, so that with the proper help they could actually come up with some humane alternatives to these horrendous round ups & lifetimes in holding pens. Yes, freedom is the best thing, but, the helicopters must stop, the roundups must stop, the excess invasive cattle must go, we want change!

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    • Oh, and they SHOULD be worried! The BLM (the misguided government agency), does not care whatsoever…(although some of their people in the field seem to care about the horses..) It is all about $$ and the natural resources that our government needs…Coal, etc. The Beef Industry is supported by our government… they are huge & we will have to SCREAM very LOUD to beat them! The cattle will never go… They will be sent on to feedlots& some for Factory Farming. There is a multitude of issues here.. Too bad that Pres.Obama is involved in so many other issues that take priority.. It is not his fault however.. I have e-mailed Michelle Obama recently, am waiting to hear back. Please support all of the orgs. that are faithfully devoted to making a change for the innocent ones… in the meantime, I am just feeling very angry & frustrated about the whole situation. Many UGHS!!

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      • Marissa, I have often wondered if it would be possible to take the First Lady and her children to see a wild herd. I sincerely doubt they have ever seen one, and would find it compelling and possibly life changing.

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  3. Why are we wasting MORE MONEY on studies? If you have the money to do these studies you have the money to provide simple shelter. This is BLM’s responsibility. You took the horses off the range and are mandated to provide care.

    Part of that care is you provide shelter. We aren’t asking for heated barns in the winter or AC stalls in summer. Just something that the horses can go to to get out of the elements.

    Lord even my sister and I took shelter under some trees on our hike this summer. Wyoming rain is SO COLD! It felt like ice it was so cold!

    The horses in the Pryors toil utilize the trees to hide in, behind and under to get out of the worst of the heat. No I’m not a vet. But I saw it with my own eyes two weeks ago.

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  4. “The BLM found that heat has not been a factor.” What? Everything is a factor ! The BLM should not be in the business of managing ANY horses–absolutely TRUE ! Get them out of the wlid horse extinction venture–please. Please–for the sake of the horses……how many more victims will there be? It is no longer “accidental”–it is Murder!

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    • Ann, I interpret this as the USDA vet determining the deaths were not caused directly by heat. Heat would of course exacerbate any stress caused by horses not eating or drinking, or who had ingested something toxic.

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  5. From THE DESERT INDEPENDENT
    http://www.thedesertinde.com/Articles-2014/75-Horses-Dead-in-BLM-Care–0827.html

    75 Horses Dead in BLM Care
    By Monika Courtney
    To The Desert Independent
    August 27, 2014

    The ongoing, silent cruelty imposed on our wild horses by the big money, big rancher driven BLM is unconscionable.

    Introduction by the Publisher:
    When we remove an animal from its chosen wild environment, we take away its natural ability to find protection from the elements. As humane (meaning human) people, we therefore owe it to these now displaced animals to provide the protection that they would seek along with any dietary needs. It is also our responsibility as humane people to provide as much open space as possible and to maintain family relationships that have developed within these animal groups. Anything less is inhumane.

    I believe history will not judge those at the Bureau of Land Management well for the way they have tortured one of our National treasures. What horrors have transpired over the last few years will sicken thousands for years to come. We have all witnessed the terrible things that people have done to one another. What the BLM has done to the wild horses is just one more tragedy, a tragedy that continues to this day. Robert Winkler, Publisher—The Desert Independent, LLC

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  6. Aside from extreme trauma of the move and other factors, the food source is very, very suspicious. I wouldn’t think BLM would feed them with clean good stuff. They would feed them with “bad” feed. What is put into the body of an animal is what will take an animal down real quick. These horses looked strong and healthy. Too many died so quick, this does not make sense.

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    • Yvon, the contractors were and are feeding these horses, and supposedly with feed suitable for horses, though the sudden change and the specific ingredients and proportions are a factor. I agree these otherwise perfectly healthy horses dropping like flies (at an average of 4 each day) is highly disturbing and suspicious. We need necropsy results to understand what the actual cause of death was in the non-euthanized horses.

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  7. Here are few D.C. names that are familiar to most WH&B Advocates.

    DIVISION OF WILD HORSES AND BURROS DIRECTORY
    http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/directory/wo-270_dir.html

    Joan Guilfoyle, Division Chief
    Division of Wild Horses and Burros
    20 M Street, S.E.
    Washington, DC 20003
    Main Contact Number: 202-912-7260

    Bolstad, Dean GS0401 – Senior Advisor (202) 912-7297 dbolstad@blm.gov

    DeLorme, Ramona GS0317 – Staff Assistant (775) 861-6583 rdelorme@blm.gov

    Guilfoyle, Joan F GS0301 – Division Chief (202) 912-7260 jguilfoy@blm.gov

    Hooks, Holle GS0401 – WH&B Specialist (405) 790-1066 hhooks@blm.gov

    Neill, John J GS0301 – Facility Manager (775) 475-2222 jneill@blm.gov

    Spencer, Sally J GS0301 – Supervisory Marketing Specialist (202) 912-7265 sspencer@blm.gov

    Wade, Beatrice A GS0401 – Wild Horse and Burro Specialist (775) 861-6625 bwade@blm.gov

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  8. Dear Ann. The BLM will announce the final results of the investigation into what caused the recent deaths at Scott City. Please stay tuned to our blm.gov page for further updates. Thank you.

    http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2014/august/NR_08_15_2014.html

    Debbie Collins
    Bureau of Land Management
    National Wild Horse and Burro Program
    866-468-7826 (info line)
    blm.gov

    On Thu, Aug 21, 2014 at 7:29 PM, Ann wrote:
    Has the President ever heard of Federally Protected Wild Horses? Does he understand DEATH ? How could he allow this to happen? BLM has KILLED 75 Wild Horses.

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  9. Looking at the video showing the “feed” – what the heck is that? Certainly a far cry from the bales being rolled out in the pasture they used to be in. Certainly seems to me this is a form of animal abuse. If any private citizen did this – it would be called animal abuse. So what is it called when the BLM does it? As the guy at the feedlot said – its not a big deal!

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    • Maggie, I think it is chopped hay and alfalfa, being fed the way animals are typically fed in feedlot situations. It does seem very dusty though!

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  10. Forwarded info:

    …The BLM press release, which is posted in our website (BLM.gov), was sent directly to all major dailies and TV stations in Kansas. The Garden City Telegram and Scott County Recorder (the local weekly) both availed themselves of the opportunity to visit. Other outlets, including The Horse Magazine, KSNW-TV Wichita and KMUW Kansas Public Radio, all provided coverage in absentia.

    A final report, including epidemiology, will be published in the coming weeks. Please check our website or stay in touch with our information center for updates.

    Thanks,

    Paul McGuire
    BLM
    405-826-3036

    In reference to the geldings that were removed from the KS long-term pasture, we moved approximately 400 geldings to four other long-term pastures that hold geldings only: Cassoday, Hulah, Bartlesville, and White Horse. The horses are doing fine.

    The mares were sent to Scott City, KS because we did not have space in another long-term pasture that holds mares. We are currently soliciting for new long-term pasture space for these mares and any future needs we may have for space.

    Thank you.

    Debbie Collins
    BLM National Wild Horse & Burro Program
    Adoptions and National Information Center
    405-790-1056
    dacollin@blm.gov

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    • Evidently this KMUW article was written “in absentia” and the reporter has not seen the facility first hand. I am waiting for reports from some who have.

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