A more detailed article on Palomino Valley from Terri Farley’s BLOG
|All images taken at National Wild Horse and Burro Center, Palomino Valley, Nevada, December 30, 2015.|
by Terri Farley
I live about 40 minutes from the Palomino Valley corrals. Since it’s open to the public, I often drive out to check on the horses and talk with John Neill, operations manager for the facility.
When I drove up yesterday, many corrals were empty. Palomino Valley corrals can hold 1850 equines and BLM round-ups usually keep it well-stocked with captive wild horses and burros.
The only times I’d seen the corrals so ghost-town quiet was when mustangs had been cleared out to make room for an influx of newly “gathered” horses. I assumed this had happened again, to make room for the survivors of Oregon’s Beaty Butte round-up.
When I checked in at BLM headquarters. Jeremy Wilhelm, wrangler, sat at the front desk. He said John Neill wouldn’t be in the office until the end of January.
When I mentioned that the corrals outside were pretty empty, Wilhelm agreed. He said a bunch of mares had gone to a Bruno, Idaho sanctuary.
How many? He didn’t know.
Why? He couldn’t say
When? He shrugged.
Wilhelm recalled that more horses had been moved to Carson City, Elm Creek and Paul’s Valley.
How many? Why? When? He said he didn’t know and joked, “I guess I’m the village idiot.”
I insisted there must be a reason for all the missing horses and he told me, again in a joking tone, “Maybe they’re shutting us down.”
I asked if space was being made for incoming survivors of the Beaty Butte round-up?
Nope, they were already in corrals 1,2, 3 with a few in 4.
He said there were 1400 horses onsite. Later, after I’d walked the corrals, he revised that to 1200.
Could I have missed seeing some horses? Yes. I didn’t do a head count and some were banging around in the enclosed processing chute, apparently getting booster vaccines. Laying on my belly, I saw hooves, but not enough to account for hundreds of horses.
Back at my laptop, I emailed Jason Lutterman, BLM Public Affairs Specialist, asking if he could clarify the fuzzy 12-1400 number of horses, and find out why, when and how many wild horses had been shipped to Idaho, Paul’s Valley, Elk Creek and Carson City.
Lutterman responded immediately. The official count said 1,134 horses were at Palomino Valley on December 22, and he’d get answers to the rest of my questions as soon as he could.
Now, as I wait, I want to believe Wilhelm’s joke that the facility is being shut down. I want to think BLM has realized they don’t have a wild horse problem, but a people problem. That’s what I want, but experience tells me to stop dreaming.
I mean, really, what are the odds a blindfold’s been snatched from the Bureau’s eyes to reveal that it’s greed, not mustangs, drawing us ever closer to the death of the West?