Horse News

Warm Springs update: 226 wild horses captured, 8 dead as sterilization study nears

Source: Return to Freedom

BLM intends to remove about 652 wild horses from the 475,460-acre Warm Springs Herd Management Area…

courtesy of Return to Freedom

The Bureau of Land Management has captured 226 wild horses and six burros and eight animals have died during the first three days of a helicopter roundup preceding a planned sterilization study of about 100 wild mares.

BLM intends to remove about 652 wild horses from the 475,460-acre Warm Springs Herd Management Area, located about 25 miles west of Burns, Ore., because the agency says it cannot support the estimated population of more than 800 wild horses. “Water availability is currently inadequate to support part of the herd and BLM has been hauling water to sustain approximately 236 animals until they are able to be gathered,” the agency said in a press release.

Three wild horses, including two foals, have died of injuries suffered during the roundup:

  • A 3-year-old black mare suffered a broken neck after running into a panel while captured wild horses were being sorted;
  • A 2-month-old pinto filly died of a head injury after being captured;
  • A 3-month-old pinto filly died of capture myopathy:  muscle damage resulting from extreme exertion, struggle or stress.

Another five have been put down because of what BLM says were pre-exisiting injuries: two because of spine injuries resulting in severe lameness, a vaginal / rectal tear from foaling, shoulder injury and a head injury causing blindness in both eyes.

In conjunction with the roundup, BLM plans to sterilize about 100 wild mares, including pregnant mares. The procedure to be performed on the mares, known as ovariectomy via colpotomy, by a private veterinarian is seldom used even in sterile environments with domestic horses. It involves removing the ovaries by crushing and pulling them out with a looped-chain medical instrument called an ecraseur.

From BLM’s planning documents:

“Approximately 28-34 mares would receive ovariectomy treatment and, after recovery (approximately 7 days), would be returned to the HMA for the behavioral and spatial ecology portion of the study. In addition to the mares that would return to the HMA, approximately 70 more mares would receive ovariectomy treatment in order to improve the quantification of the complication rate of the surgical procedure. The mares in the second group of spayed animals would be observed and evaluated for 7 days for any complications from the treatment, but would not be returned to the HMA. They would receive veterinary care if needed. These additional marks would remain at the Oregon Wild Horse Corral Facility and enter the adoption program.

“Mares receiving treatment would be adult females, 3 years of age and older. Taking into account both the mares that would be returned to the range and those that would not, in total approximately 100 mares could receive ovariectomy treatment. Those would include mares 3 years of age and older, and spread evenly across three gestational stages: open (not pregnant), <120 days, and 120-250 days. The BLM would aim to evenly distribute these three gestational stages as long as they are available in the animals gathered at the time of surgery. This design would allow adequate quantification of the complication rate of the surgical procedure as it relates to the gestational stages treated. The overall sample size of about 100 is needed to provide adequate statistical power to estimate the complication rate with reliable accuracy and precision. The sample size would allow for the ability to obtain accurate estimates of the complication rate typical for the procedure in each of three gestational stages without being unduly influenced by one or two unusual outcomes. It would also allow for the ability to obtain precise estimates of overall mortality rate (or morbidity rate).”

This dangerous, costly and unproven procedure opens the mares up to: serious risk from infection; evisceration (should intestines come through the incision); and hemorrhaging. There is a high frequency of post-operative complications affiliated with ovariectomy via colpotomy, some of which can be life-threatening.

The BLM-set “Appropriate Management Level” for Warm Springs is 96-178 wild horses, or as low as one wild horse for every 4,953 acres.

By comparison, BLM allocates 19,392 Animal Unit Months for privately owned livestock that graze on the herd management area. One AUM is a month’s forage for one horse, one cow / calf pair or five sheep. Actual use varied from 55-73% from 2008-2017, according to BLM planning documents.

Wild horses captured during the roundup will be transported to BLM’s Wild Horse Corral Facility in Hines, Ore., where they will be subjected to the spay study or to be offered for adoption.

Those passed over three times for adoption or that are ages 10-over face an increased risk of going to slaughter because BLM has altered its sale policy to allow one buyer to purchase up to 24 wild horses per day with no waiting period, no oversight and no questions aked.

To read BLM’s planning documents, click here.

Viewing the roundup / surgeries

BLM has not released full details, yet, but some have been posted here.

To read more about why RTF strongly opposes spay surgeries, click here.

To read RTF’s op-ed about the Oregon roundup and spay study, click here.

Take Action

Call your members of Congress at (202) 225-3121 (to find direct numbers, go to

Urge your senators to:

* Stand strong in Conference committee on the Senate’s language protecting wild horses and burros and on defunding horse slaughter, if the senator sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee (click for a list of members:

For senators *not* on the Senate Appropriations Committee: Ask them to tell members of the Conference committee that constituents do not want them to waiver either on protecting wild horses or defunding horse slaughter.

* Oppose a new, quietly implemented BLM policy increasing the number of wild horses that can be sold to individuals and the frequency of those sales. This move will only lead to the slaughter of wild horses, something Congress has strongly rejected;

* Support the SAFE Act (S. 1706) to ban slaughter and the transportation of horses for slaughter.

Urge your congressional representative to:

* Oppose a new, quietly implemented BLM increasing the number of wild horses that can be sold to individuals and the frequency of those sales. This move will only lead to the slaughter of wild horses, something Congress has strongly rejected.

Read the rest of this article HERE.


9 replies »

  1. Hard to believe that this inhumane experimental “research” is still being pushed forward. With all the vocal opposition from the public – this agency seems to feel they can do anything they please because we, the people dont matter! Having seen the “orphan” pens after the Owyhee roundup – foals removed from their families – some of which will not make it – 20 some horses dead – one after another HMA having herds removed from their homes – this corrupt government agency cannot be allowed to continue this kind of blatant eradication of wild horses! If there isnt some way to stop this – our wild horses & burros are going to be GONE! There are so many hard-working caring, people trying to stop this intentional extinction of our wild horses & burros and NOONE IS LISTENING in our “government”! There certainly appears to be no comprehension of what the public – the PEOPLE – are saying to our supposed representatives – our politicians – in this or other issues. I sure hope that on November 6th – we ALL remember exactly how much OUR opinion does matter! And I hope & pray that its not too late for our wild horses & burros.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Said it before but worth repeating that 1 AUM for a cow/calf pair is NOT the equivalent of 1 wild horse or burro. Cattle genetics are such these days that cows are larger and calves grow faster, so a single pair could exceed 1500 lbs. pretty easily. A single wild horse will rarely reach 900 lbs., with mares and foals of course generally smaller. Supposedly foals are not counted but I cannot verify how any AUMs are calculated for specific HMAs.

    So calcluting forage AUMs is also a way to skew allocations against the public’s wildlife.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true! Similar situation with sheep. Someone who knows about sheep told me that it depends on the breed but an average sheep now weighs 300 pounds. Per BLM, 5 sheep (1500 pounds) equal one AUM plus often lambs who are not “counted” (similar to cow/calf pairs).


      • Oops, fat fingers. Last sentence should say “calculating.”

        Rambouillet are the breed commonly seen grazing NW Colorado public lands, and it looks like these days both sexes are indeed around 300 lbs. Ewes typically have two lambs so the 5 sheep AUM is a combination of ewes and lambs who are growing and gaining weight all summer.

        Big, hardy and vigorous; Great adaptability to hot and cold climates, and a variety of forage conditions;Will travel long distances to forage; Good gains on grass; Excellent foundation on a crossbreeding program;Ewes are prolific; Good milkers with strong maternal instinct; Excellent wool production; Superior out-of-season breeders suitable for an accelerated lambing program; Known as the “Dual Purpose” breed with excellent fleece and weight gains; Ewes have less lambing difficulties with less death of offspring and ewe as a result.

        Mature rams weigh about 250-300 lbs. Mature ewes weigh about 200-275 lbs. Lifespan can be upwards of 10-12 years*. The average ewe will have 1-2 lambs per birth* The average ewe may lamb more than once per year* Mature ewe fleece will weigh 8 to 18 lbs. with a yield of 35-55% .
        * These results occur if under a carefully planned management program.

        Liked by 1 person

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