I-Team: Critics say deadly wild horse roundup could have been avoided


Photo:  Cold Creek Stallions © Arlene Gawne

SOURCE:  lasvegasnow.com

By George Knapp, Chief investigative reporter


A roundup of wild horses north of Las Vegas has ended, for now. The Bureau of Land Management confirms it gathered 230 Mustangs over the past three weeks in and around Cold Creek.

The government says it took the emergency action in order to save the horses from the ravages of drought. But critics of the BLM say the Cold Creek operation illustrates everything that is wrong with the wild horse program and say it has all but wiped out the last viable horse herd in southern Nevada.

“They want us to believe somehow it’s a humane thing they’re doing for the horses and that we should all feel grateful. I don’t feel grateful at all,” said long-time wild horse advocate Jerry Reynoldson.

In the decades that he’s been fighting on behalf of the mustang herds, Reynoldson has seen this same story play out over and over.

Across the West, millions of acres which were designated by law as habitat for Mustangs have been zeroed out, completely stripped of wild horses. But it’s not entirely empty, he says.

“That’s just been set aside for cattle again, pure and simple.”

Reynoldson and other mustang advocates are heartbroken over the roundup at Cold Creek, but hardly surprised.

In the 20 plus years the I-Team has chronicled the Cold Creek herd, it’s captured some amazing images, many worthy of scenes from a Hollywood movie.

The Cold Creek herd is one of the West’s most iconic, in part, because they’ve always been so accessible. They are beloved by visitors and by nearly all of the residents, many of whom moved to the town to be near the Mustangs.

The BLM asks for public comment whenever it contemplates a roundup. Opposition is usually close to unanimous, but it never impacts the BLM’s decision.

In recent years, the BLM has come to rely on what it deems emergency gathers. Those are roundups carried out with little advance notice and no public comment at all.

Each time BLM staffers say they had no choice but to move in to rescue horses that were in bad shape due to drought conditions.

Reynoldson and others allege the emergency was manufactured.

“This didn’t sneak up on us. People have known these horses were out there for many years” he said. “I think they knew what their game plan was for a long time. They were just waiting for the situation to get dire enough and that’s a terrible remedy and a terrible way to manage.”

If you ask a BLM official what their overall wild horse strategy is, the answer is remarkably similar every time: the horses have to be managed. But the reality, critics say, is that management means only one thing to BLM: roundups.

In the mid 90s, BLM captured the last Mustangs in Red Rock Canyon, a supposedly temporary measure to allow wild grasses to replenish.

Twenty years later, the horses have never been returned.

After roundups, they get shipped off to holding pens where most spend the rest of their lives. In many previous roundups, BLM releases pictures of a few emaciated horses to the public, even though 90 percent of those captured might be in good health.

In Cold Creek, a round up to help emaciated horses ended with 15 percent of them being killed on the spot, for their own good, the agency said.

If BLM wanted to manage the herd at Cold Creek, it could have been pro-active, Reynoldson says, by working with local residents, culling the older sicker horses, instituting birth control, and actual management.

“In the end, they want to get these horses out of here. They want to remove them. Cold Creek was probably the last substantial group of horses in southern Nevada.”


  1. Heber Wild Horses shared a post.
    September 9
    Cold Creek, cold hard facts…
    Please read through the description below the photos to see what really happened as opposed to what the BLM said they were going to do….

    Melissa Ohlsson added 4 new photos.
    September 8 at 10:08pm • Edited •
    By Melissa Ohlsson

    NOTE: So, I got a call from BLM’s Karla Norris this afternoon. She was all nice and cordial… to let me know that during a flyover of Cold Creek this week,
    they saw more horses and were going to get them (but I was SO angry that I don’t remember WHEN!) I asked her if she was calling to tell me more lies about what would happen to those horses, too? That’s when she started back-peddling, changing her story and acting like I had misunderstood what she told me in our phone call the Friday before the, “gather” and also what the BLM rep, Shayne had told me! (the rest is probably best not to post)
    LIE #1) We are going to gather up to 200 horses from Cold Creek, starting tomorrow morning. We are specifically taking the 70 we counted starving by the road. We’re not interested in removing healthy horses.
    WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: They removed 202 horses total. 132 were perfectly healthy horses.
    LIE # 2) All of the horses will be taken to the Olive Ranch facility by Blue Diamond where they will be evaluated and fattened-up before being shipped to the holding facility in Utah.
    WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: 43 were shipped out on Monday. 41 were shipped Wednesday. 49 were shipped Thursday and the last 37 shipped out on Friday. The remaining horses were euthanized even though I was told that… LIE # 3) There are no plans to euthanize any of the horses.
    LIE # 4) Since the horses are already used to humans, when they are healthy again we want them ALL to have a chance to be adopted.
    WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: 28 horses were euthanized between Wednesday and Friday. (NO chance for adoption)
    LIE # 5 on Tuesday) So far, we’ve trapped 113 horses. We have the 70 worst cases… the ones that we identified as having a 2 body score. We will try to get the mare and foal that are still out there tomorrow morning. It doesn’t look like we’ll get more than 130 so if we can’t catch the mare and foal, we will leave them out there and we’ll be done.
    WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Gather operations continued until Wednesday, 09/02. with a total of 202 wild horses removed, whether the horses needed help, or not.
    I am comparing what I was told personally, to the BLM’s Gather Report.
    (To ensure my post gather report can be shared, the link to the BLM’s Gather Report page will be in a separate post immediately following this)
    I will NEVER trust anything the BLM says again! My BAD for giving these lying SOB’s the benefit of the doubt. May the 28 euthanized wild horses Rest in Peace… they never had a chance.

    Melissa Ohlsson
    Vice President
    America’s Wild Horse Advocates/Spring Mountain Alliance
    Las Vegas, NV.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. For Christ sake…when is this going to stop? This agency seems to be gaining momentum rounding up these horses. What is going on! There has got to be something people can do. Makes me so disgusted that people are just sleeping and letting the government run wild. Are people so stupid?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. How can it be that such a “crisis” arises after more than forty years of paid professional management without anyone being fired? Any taxpaying business people out there who can explain why this should continue? Imagine if this was, say, a zoo and people discovered the animals hadn’t been fed properly in ages but the vending machines were always kept full for other species… why would the animals be killed and the same managers allowed to keep their jobs, and perpetuate their “management” skills.

    Why isn’t anyone ever accountable, no investigations lead anywhere except the dead file, and the drumbeat continues with the same refrain: the horses are required to suffer and die.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Here is a thought,, how about getting the damn cattle off our public lands and leaving the horses alone? The horses are not overpopulated the humans are overpopulated at a rate of 7.3 billion and the humans are outsourcing the planet. Maybe they should experiment with their damn PZP on the humans and leave the horses alone. smh

    Liked by 4 people

  5. This will not stop until the BLM is totally dismantled and the governmental Legislators replaced! The Legislators out there dont give aa rats ass about the Wild Horses and Burros one bit. What tourists go out to Las Vegas or the West to see oil rigs or cattle running all over public lands? No one I know! The cattlemen and the Ranchers are given carte Blanche over everything including private vacant land if it is not fenced in. Last February my friend and I traveled to Arizona to see the land we purchased for development for home sights. We were shocked to find cattle running all over our property. No brands no farms or anything to tell who the hell the cattled belonged to. Now that takes some kahunas! Who gave them the right to private property? The BLM are bald face liers from the district management to the idiots with the appointed jobs in Washington, DC. Harry Reid represents NO ONE except the Ranchers and the money mongers! The public needs to demand accountability! They are shameful individuals with their own agendas!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. BLM are just a group wasting taxpayers money looking for ways to keep busy destroying OUR wild horses. Trying to make us think they are doing good, the taxpayers are not stupid. BLM use OUR money doing what the majority of the taxpayers do NOT want them doing. They insult our intelligence with lies of reasons for roundups, abuse, neglect and everything else pertaining to OUR wild horses. Lies about what will be done to OUR wild horses now and in the future. BLM are a group who hates OUR wild horses and do not want them running FREE, WILD, PROTECTED AND UNHARMED. Anyone who likes wildlife, especially wild horses would not be doing what the BLM, government and others involved are doing to all these wild horses and burros. Only population problem is cruel, abusing, ignorant, uncaring, greedy humans.


  7. Per BLM Herd Stats, the Cold Creek/Wheeler Pass wild horse population jumped 505% in ONE year. Yep, according to BLM 40 wild horses (2009) had 202 foals by 2010. Something fishy? Yep, what is fishy is the entire BLM WH&B management – from Washington big wigs all the way to the wranglers and contractors and field managers – ALL of them.

    And here’s another example, per BLM Herd Stats, the Cold Creek/Wheeler Pass wild burro population jumped 548% in ONE year. There were 27 burros reported on the HMA in 2009 (the AML was 35 for burros) and those 27 burros gave birth to 148 foals by 2010. And it has been reported in the past few years that now there are ZERO burros on the HMA. Something fishy? Yep, what is fishy is the entire BLM WH&B management – from Washington big wigs all the way to the wranglers and contractors and field managers – ALL of them.

    Just thought you needed to see what I see … BIG LIES BY BLM … again.


    • Actually, GG, the notion of “free & wild” seems to scare the hell out of the BLM management! Any creature that they cant “manage” obviously isnt profitable or deserving of space! After all, PROFIT is what matters, right?


  8. A bit of history

    Horses Criminal Case Shut Down
    By Martha Mendoza Associated Press Writer

    DEL RIO, Texas (AP) -A federal grand jury has collected evidence that shows U.S. government officials allowed the slaughter of hundreds of wild horses taken from federal lands, falsified records and tried to prevent investigators from uncovering the truth.

    The chief prosecutor and grand jury foreman in the investigation wanted to bring criminal indictments against officials of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, but the case was closed down last summer after federal officials in Washington including- officials outside the investigation – intervened.

    “I believe that my investigation was obstructed all along by persons within the BLM because they did not want to be embarrassed,” the prosecutor, Mrs. Alia Ludlum, wrote in a memo last summer. “I think there is a terrible problem with the program and with government agents placing themselves above the law.”

    Mrs. Ludlum’s memo is among thousands of pages of grand jury documents in the case obtained by The Associated Press. Those documents also show that the grand jury foreman was incensed that federal officials were blocking the investigation, and that his requests to indict them were ignored.

    Mrs. Ludlum, 35, formerly an assistant U.S. attorney, is now a federal magistrate judge at the courthouse in Del Rio, which serves West Texas. She refused to be interviewed for this story, but she acknowledged the authenticity of documents obtained by the AP.

    Spokesmen for the Departments of Justice and the Interior denied that their agencies had done anything wrong, but they refused to answer questions. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who oversees the BLM and by law is responsible for protecting wild horses, refused to be interviewed.

    Wild horses and burros, which compete with domestic cattle for forage, have been protected by federal law for 25 years. The BLM decides how many animals can survive on public lands, rounds up the excess animals and lets people adopt them for about $125 apiece. After a year, an adopter can receive a title to an animal, if the BLM finds the animal is receiving proper care.

    The law says it is a crime to kill a wild horse or burro taken from public land. It prohibits anyone who adopts one of the animals from selling it for slaughter.
    Mrs. Ludlum wanted to indict BLM officials for allowing horses to be slaughtered.
    Recent AP investigations have found that thousands of the horses are eventually sold for slaughter, and that the whereabouts of tens of thousands of adopted but never titled animals are unknown. The BLM has attacked the AP’s reports, saying its investigations show that slaughter “is occurring to a far, far lesser degree than was alleged.”

    Although Babbitt refused to speak, the last person to serve as his chief at BLM said Babbitt has known all about problems in the wild horse program for a long time.
    Jim Baca, who quit as BLM director in 1994 after a falling out with Babbitt, said in an interview that he discovered the program was in turmoil and wanted to take steps to correct it.

    He said Babbitt told him to back off.

    “The orders were: `Don’t make waves, we’ve got enough problems,”‘ Baca said, adding that his efforts to shake up the program went nowhere.

    “Babbitt thought it might cause problems and he didn’t want any controversy, he didn’t want to make anybody unhappy, and so this program just festered,” Baca said. “When they wanted me to leave BLM, that was one of the reasons they gave me: `Why the hell are you raising problems about horses?”’

    Liked by 1 person

    • So if “slaughter is occurring to a far far lesser degree that was alleged” – doesnt that mean that SLAUGHTER WAS OCCURRING & STILL IS!


    • “… might cause problems and he didn’t want any controversy, he didn’t want to make anybody unhappy …”
      Making BLM officials unhappy was not the concern … the concern was that after all the BLM employees and associates that would have been found guilty and would have been sent to prison, there would have been no BLM employees left that weren’t in prison.
      Same thing “today”.


    • Louie, that isn’t entirely true. Some are adopted (though not many) and photographed for those purposes as we see consistently. I presume incarcerated criminals probably pay taxes as well, or their families do, but more to my point, it would be easy to explain the horses “gone missing” by perhaps examining the DNA of what is being fed to prisoners where wild horses are also sent. I sincerely hope I am wrong with this line of questioning.


  9. IcySpots, you’re right..some are adopted, but I’m thinking about those 1700 that went missing from the Canon City prison and about the Stallions that have died at Gunnison prison due to the castrations.
    I should have said the Wild Horse and Burro loving, taxpaying Public that go out to watch them in the Wild…but probably won’t see them in the prison system.
    IF it was ever to be divulged that inmates are being fed Horse meat at the very same facilities where our Wild Horses & Burros are being shipped…..YES, it would explain a lot of “missing” Horses and Burros


    • Divides? These ranchers they quote are the same as the ones Printed in Every Decade of Every News Article saying the same lies. They just change the name as the next idiot takes credit for the lies. This article is just another propaganda notch for Uh and Dd.


    • I would highly highly highly suggest that anyone that has not yet seen this movie – please take the time to do so. It will make a lot of sense to anyone who has any concern for any animal and especially for any wild animal and for the health of ourselves and our planet.


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