Horse Health

Where Have All The Horses Gone?

Guest OpEd by “Calamity” Cate Crismani of TrueCowboy Magazine

“Fiscal Year 2012, out of 10,350 wild horses and burros gathered, a total of 80 animals, or approximately three-quarters of one percent (0.77 percent), died or were euthanized during gather operations”

BLM Antelope attack in 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BLM Antelope attack in 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Did you know that in the last forty years 50% of the world’s wild species has been decimated? Wiped off the planet. Never to be seen again except in books or on the internet. In one word, extinct. It is a fact. Another fact, the decimation is still going on now taking its toll on the wild horses and burros roaming freely on the ranges in ten states in the U.S.A. by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Department of Interior (DOI). These are the very same government departments that are supposed to manage the public lands for diversity and multiple use. The public lands. The very departments tasked with protecting and preserving the wild horses and burros and their freedom to exist on public lands unharassed according to The Wild Horse Annie Act of 1959 (TWHA Act) and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971(WFRH&B Act) The latter was signed into law by Richard M. Nixon, our president at that time.

Both the Wild Horse Annie Act and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act were put in place to stop aggressive and inhumane roundups of these wild animals while granting them the legal right to live freely, unharassed, on public lands. So what went wrong? The BLM produced its own video to justify these brutal roundups. According to the video, in the fifties they employed small planes. TWHA Act of 1959 effectively banned the use of small planes to conduct the roundups. A few short years later, and currently, helicopters are being used, replacing small planes, to continue the roundups. These helicopters are owned by private individuals, contracted by the BLM at exorbitant rates, paid for by the taxpayers, you and me. Statistics reveal there are more wild horses and burros in short-term holding pens than exist freely in the wild. These captured horses are being sustained by the almighty tax dollar as well which amounts to millions every year.

To add insult to injury, the WFRH&B 1971 Act was amended in the eleventh hour by Senator Burns who slipped an omnibus clause into it without public input, knowledge or approval. This clause stated that captured wild horses and burros could be sold “without restriction”. Those two words changed the intention and purpose of the WFRH&B Act and opened the door for “kill buyers” to purchase the once free roaming wild horses and burros for slaughter and human consumption overseas. Yup, people in parts of Europe and Asia eat horse meat. Although there are no horse slaughter houses in the U.S.A., yet,   the kill buyers figured out a way around that one. They simply pack the horses and burros like sardines into huge trucks, with poor or no ventilation, and drive them across the borders of Mexico and Canada to slaughter for profit and human consumption overseas.

Per the BLM’s own website, in “Fiscal Year 2012, out of 10,350 wild horses and burros gathered, a total of 80 animals, or approximately three-quarters of one percent (0.77 percent), died or were euthanized during gather operations; of those 80, 22 animals, or about one-fifth of one percent (0.21 percent) of the gathered animals, died or were euthanized because of acute injuries. Acute injury deaths include all animals that died or were euthanized because of acute injuries, such as spinal cord or head injuries, fractured limbs, or other severe injuries that occurred during gathers. Total deaths include all animals that died or were euthanized for any reason during gathers, including acute or sudden injuries or illnesses, as well as chronic or pre-existing conditions that required euthanasia (such as limb deformities, lameness, and poor body condition)”.

These are stale-dated statistics from 2012. Although the 2015 roundup schedule is posted on the BLM website, current mortality rates are not for the years between 2012 to present time.

Logically, and alternatively, none of these wild horses and burros would have had to die if they weren’t being harassed and chased at high speeds by helicopters. Young foals cannot keep up with the herd and snap their legs off, left to die on the range. Pregnant mares abort their unborn foals under this stress and duress. Wild horse advocates have witnessed these roundups first hand. They have photos and videos of helicopters clipping the horses as they run in fear, at unsustainable high speeds for miles over rugged terrain, while being pursued within inches by the helicopters. Further, and it’s a matter of record, advocates have been barred from viewing these roundups on public land. Public land. Begs the question, why?

If you watch this BLM video,

you will hear the voice-over saying these wild horses are living on “millions of acres of public land”. Millions of acres. You will see healthy, beautiful herds of wild horses roaming freely on a landscape of “millions” of acres while the voice-over expounds on their beauty and value as historical treasures. Yet, at the same time, the BLM claims the wild horses and burros are overpopulating as they have no natural predators.

On that note, the wild ones’ natural predators are mountain lions, wolves and bears. Need I remind you, mountain lions, wolves and bears are “trophy” hunted yearly. Its called “hunting season” condoned by the BLM and DOI. Yet another travesty the BLM justifies by claiming these animals are overpopulating as well. A highly effective broad stroke by the BLM. But I digress. So, yes, the wild horses and burros natural predators have been dramatically reduced on millions of acres of public lands. These animals are only doing what nature intended them to do, survive.

Simply stated, the BLM has some clever public relations people on board.

The BLM bases the removal of the wild horses and burros on what they have named “Herd Management Areas” (HMA) and “Appropriate Management Levels (AML). But who is determining those numbers? The BLM and the DOI. That’s like having the cat babysit the canary. I think we all know how that will turn out.

Horses have existed on this planet for millions of years. Well before humans. Their equine ancestors, according to fossils found in North America and around the world, were much smaller with tri-cloven hooves. As a matter of survival, they evolved into the modern-day horse of which we are all familiar. Strong, big, sentient, hoofed animals able to carry double their own weight on their backs. Prehistoric man and horses have coexisted for millions of years. Horses and burros were domesticated to serve mankind for centuries. We have employed them in our wars, to build our railroads, as transportation to move us from the east to the west to settle new frontiers. A person could be hung for stealing horses in the 18th and 19th centuries. And, yes, we have eaten them in times of famine and war. Today horses are used for sport, pleasure and companionship. Cars have “horsepower” and trains, during the Industrial Revolution, were called “Iron Horses”.

Wild horses and burros travel up to forty miles a day natively for survival. They stay in one spot for a very short time. As prey animals, it’s inherently in their best survival interest to roam. Their roaming nature contributes to our eco-system. Their droppings carry seeds they have ingested to new areas miles away where these seeds then grow into plants and foliage. Horses only eat the tips of the grass never pulling up the roots. In contrast, cattle stand all day in one spot eating the grass right down to the dirt, roots and all, leaving nothing but barren land.

So what is really going on? Follow the money. Cattle ranching, fraking, urban development, mineral and metal exploitation, hunting and corporate greed have all taken their toll on the wild horses and burros on public land. Frankly, on all of nature and its inhabitants, including humans. The wild horse and burro advocates are up against strong opposition and pro-lobbying groups for the NRA, the cattle and meat industry, corporate oil drilling and natural gas fraking, which, I might add, uses millions of gallons of water to keep the boring drills cooled off, along with uranium mining to produce plutonium. You do know that plutonium is a radioactive metal, produced from uranium, and used to manufacture nuclear weapons? And that both plutonium and uranium are nuclear reactor fuels? And that both are extremely radioactive and deadly? All of these groups are very powerful and very well-heeled.

The wild horse advocates have no lobbying group and very little financial strength to hire one. Most spend and donate out of their own pockets to support the waning, but needed, legislative changes. Meanwhile back at the ranch, our government continues to ignore and violate existing laws, in place for years, to protect the wild horses and burros to live freely and unharassed. Getting the picture now?

Wild horse and burro advocates are constantly on guard and on roundup sites in protest. Petitions run rampant on and other petition sites demanding an end to these inhumane roundups. But the roundups continue ad nauseum.

Yet, wild horses are considered American Icons, even by the BLM. Much like the American Bald Eagle who came very close to extinction. It is, and has been for years, a felony to kill one bald eagle.

Against all odds, the wild horse and burro advocates continue to fight the good fight. These dauntless folks are the only voice for the protection and preservation of these majestic animals to live freely and unharassed. So they press on with the belief that the price of freedom is constant alertness and the willingness to fight back. Most times in doing so, tragically, lives are lost; the lives of the mighty wild horses and burros.

And their freedom, along with ours, is lost with it.

9 replies »

  1. Thank you for the informative article.
    I would like to shed a bit more light on the subject of our wild horses and burros who die following capture and removal from their land. Twin Peaks Herd Management Area (NE CA & NW NV) was rounded up August and September of 2010.

    1,799 wild horses and burros and mules were captured – a few were returned to the HMA.
    Out of those 1799 captured, 193 were reported as dead within the next 30 months. That is 11% (rounded) of all that were captured and only 8 of those were reported as dying of old age and the rest were reported as dead from miscellaneous reasons such as gelding procedures and injury/fracture of legs, head or spine etc.
    In addition, of those 1799 captured, 88 were sold by BLM to Tom Davis and we are told he could not/would not account for the whereabouts of any of those wild horses and burros and we can assume they are also dead. That is an additional 5% (rounded) of all that were captured.

    So from this one BLM roundup, it becomes clear that 281 (16%) of all wild horses and burros captured under the BLM’s directive and protection were dead within two and a half years.
    Data from FOIA.


    • Like i said before they should be made to have reports to this date as to where each and ever horse and burro is!!!When this regime came on board he has lied to the American people and those that this administration benefits continue to sing his praises.I get a lot of flack in the comment section after I read an article and comment on it . The nice little pattern of all the wildlife deaths can be and I centered right around the rancher and now the push of big oil . Now with the passing of the keystone pipeline and the transpacific ship lanes and those were passed minus obozo’s signature . So expect lots of push back about that . The native reservations have also and have been a selling point too for these subjects . There was also a provocative article in the huffington post about obozo writing an executive order w/ his wife and dog ,1 photographer present . That executive was to the order gave him permission to write executive orders . And personally that scares the livin’ sh-t out me . Can you see the damage that can be done if he was to do that. Think about the things he would order . I would really love to have those blm folks in room and just let a couple of pumas loose on them and i would not feel bad about but God would not look kindly on that. but it sure is a nice picture and it could even be a cushey office ,i don’t care. All i know is Boehner right on down to the lowly aide needs to start acting for WE THE PEOPLE !


  2. Well said, Cate. So sad and so infuriating. Cannot ever give up fighting these demons and revealing their diabolical acts and unjust policies.


  3. All this information is damaging, sad and inhumane. It totally sickens me that we have very few supporters in our Legislature. Most are spineless smucks who just seem to turn the other way. I would like to send a letter to my Legislators and tell them I refuse to pay my federal taxes until this is stopped. I can only imagine the horror that these poor animals feel. We have state laws dealing with inhumane treatment of animals and horses. So how in the hell is this justified???


    • @GERI, RT, DEBBIE C. , Where is little Wanye Pacelle in all this ? Why is his presence being dismissed so easily ? Why is he letting all these animals be misused and abused and killed so much ? Why is he not at the round-ups documenting every thing to take to congress ? Is Vickery going to be reporting facts as she sees them ? She is the only reporter who has stated the facts. Looking at that little baby sleeping in that corral as all the panic going on in the next corral makes me physically sick !! The other one that really got to me was the one with the helicopter and the two horses just standing still , one with it’s leg up off the ground . Please , have a good day . Happy Super Bowl — Go SEA CHICKENS . I don’t like cheaters!!!!!!


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