The Red Desert Complex roundup is finally over. This was a continuation of a roundup that began in 2018 with the goal of removing 2679 wild horses from 5 Herd Management Areas on over 750,000 acres and had to stop before they were finished because they ran out of room in holding facilities, capturing 1442 releasing 25 and killing 10. This fall, they said after a flyover count in August that there were 3000 horses in the Complex and they set a new goal of removing 2400 wild horses in the 5 Herd Management Areas: Crooks Mountain, Green Mountain, Stewart Creek, Antelope Hills and Lost Creek.
|Horses to remove|
In the middle of these five Herd Management Areas, in the largest area, is Arapahoe Creek Herd Area which is no longer managed for wild horses. This area was changed to an area for no wild horses at the end of the 90s. However, the whole reason that Crooks Mountain, Lost Creek and Arapahoe Creek have the low Appropriate Management Level at 60 or 65 horses is that the BLM says they move from Herd management Area to Herd Management Area. It makes absolutely no sense to have the area in the middle be a no man’s land if that is the case. 150 adult horses is the minimum number needed to ensure genetic viability of a herd. In this roundup the goal was to remove all of the horses in Arapahoe Creek. I was told that the number of horses estimated to be in Arapahoe Creek was rolled into the amounts in Crooks Mountain and Lost Creek. I was never given an actual estimated or actual number of horses in that area.
The plan was to return 150 wild horses to Stewart Creek which is where a birth control program using PZP-22 is being started, and to return 25 horses to each of the other four Herd Management Areas after giving the mares PZP-22 birth control. But they did not return 150 to Stewart Creek – they only returned 90, saying there were 60 horses left.
When the roundup ended after weather delay after weather delay, the total number of wild horses that were captured using two helicopters driving the horses into a trap was 1970, not 2400 because there were not 3000 wild horses in the Complex. As usual, the BLM overestimates wild horse populations when doing their statistical double counts. 197 wild horses were returned to the Complex, 10 were killed, and 100 wild mares were given PZP -22 birth control. 3 wild horses were injured when being captured, with a broken neck, broken leg, broken head. The other 7 were considered to be “pre-existing” conditions and the horses were euthanized, but the truth is all 10 of these horses would be alive today if there had not been a roundup. These conditions were a club foot, deformed front leg, arthritis in knees, a broken leg and cancer. You can read the BLM reports here:
The wild horses that were returned to each of the 5 areas were not returned with their families. Their families were broken up permanently. Some of these horses may have been together for over a decade. These horses will never be the same, even though they are the lucky ones who at least have their freedom.
Because of the massive overestimate of how many wild horses were in the Complex, I am very concerned that there are far fewer wild horses left in the wild, in their homes, than the Low Appropriate Management Level, not only that, all the mare that were released were given birth control. This is a recipe for wiping out wild horses, not for preserving and managing them humanely. In the whole roundup from 2018 to 2020, a total of 3170 wild horses were shipped to short term holding facilities.
During a pandemic, the BLM insists on rounding up thousands of wild horses. Now the horses that have been removed are in short term facilities in Colorado and Wyoming being given freeze brands, vaccinations and the stallions are being gelded.
Because of COVID the public may have little or no opportunity to even see or adopt the 1763 wild horses that were removed. These horses should never been removed in the first place. The horses were in excellent condition, with body score 4 or 5. They were not starving to death. There is plenty of forage and water. And there are cattle and sheep ranchers who have grazing leases in the Complex who wanted the horses removed – demanded it. Surely there are issues facing the American public that are more urgent and important than removing wild horses that 80% of Americans believe have a right to stay on the public lands where they should be the principle species, according to the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. And if there will be no or little opportunity to adopt these horses then they should never have removed them.
What needs to be done? The grazing leases need to be retired from wild horse Herd Management Areas. Arapahoe Creek needs to be restored to a Herd Management Area since the BLM is currently working on the Resource Management Plan for the area. The Path Forward, a plan by the Cattleman’s Association enabled by HSUS and ASPCA needs to be stopped. This plan is for 20,000 wild horses per year to be removed from our public lands and warehoused usually in feedlots at millions of dollars each year in expense to the taxpayer. The “incentive program” that BLM is touting as such a wonderful boon to the wild horse adoption program must be discontinued. Too many wild horses are being dumped at kill buyer auctions once the “adopters” get their $1000 incentive. The roundups must stop.
Wild horses need to be managed humanely in their homes where they are found, and their numbers controlled only using humane, safe, proven and reversible birth control. The stallions should not be gelded, the mares should not be spayed in dangerous sterilization experiments. The wild horses currently being warehoused in Long Term Holding Facilities should not be shipped overseas. They should not be killed. They should be released into the 22 million acres that were Herd Management Areas for wild horses at the time of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act was passed and then taken away from wild horse use, turned into Herd Areas not managed for wild horses.
What can you do to help? Contact your Senators and Representatives.