Horse News

The Red Desert Complex Roundup, Largest in History is Finally Over – but What About the Horses?

by , first published on Wild Hoofbeats, sponsored by Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Mares and foal in a family that is no longer free, one day before being captured

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.

Antelope Hills
HMA  AML  Est. total
Horses to remove 
Stewart Creek 125-175 511 361
Lost Creek 60-82 531 471
Antelope Hills 60-82 629 569
Crooks Mountain 65-85 884 819
Green Mountain 170-300 369 199
Totals  480-724 2,924  2,419 
BLM’s Estimate after August 2020 Flyover

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.

Stewart Creek

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.

Wild stallion Pan being released without his family back into Stewart Creek

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 Big Band mares and foals – now separated from each other and in a short term holding facility

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.

Released – they are the lucky ones

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.

A stallion in temporary Holding before being shipped

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.

These mares and foal were not rounded up – they are still free

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.

Horses in Crooks Mountain being driven toward the trap which is out of my view

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.

Looking Glass and his foal still free

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.

This wild family was captured, separated and are in short term holding and face an uncertain fate

What can you do to help? Contact your Senators and Representatives.

Contact your Senators

Contact your Representatives

7 replies »

  1. I was brought up to believe LIES were WRONG. Apparently there are few of us left alive that know this to be true and BLM is a major example of this fraudulent, deceitful behavior.
    Example: “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.”
    Now, these beautiful, courageous, natural souls of mother nature are gone for ever and ever and ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I want wild mustangs to be saved not killed off to meat packers and horse slaughters . They need to be free and live out their lives being free and happy . Wild mustangs can be broke to ride in all states to be someone’s companion too for life that would understand and take care of them . If I had alot of acres of land I would fence them in to be all safe and feed them and they would have plenty of water year round . I love wild mustangs and all horses of any kind. My oldest brother wanted to buy me a wild mustang long time ago before he died at age 26.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Set allowed numbers (AML) below genetic viability and over time reduce allowed habitat. Turn over our “public” lands to “private” profit, profit benefiting special interests. Destroy our wildlife, our wild horses and burros, their habitats for survival, native people’s sacred places, and our beautiful, natural landscapes. Uniformed, bribed Congress and President an his minions go along with this greed driven human wasting. Environmentalists try to stop this waste but govn. leaders ignore their words. In the end…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Treatment of Historic Properties with Guideliner for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes defines the term cultural landscape to include wild& or domestic animals (Birnbaum and Peters 1996:4). Since the legendary priest, Rev. Eusebio Francisco Kino, in May of 1700 rode from Tumacacori to the town of San Ignacio, just in the nick of time to save an Indian who was about to be executed, the Colonial Spanish Horse (CPA) has been a part of America’s cultural practices and beliefs. The remnant herds represent 500 years of cultural heritage. They also represent a Cultural Resource under Sec 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Their hoof print evolved with the birth of this nation to the present,
    Our country’s evolution is intertwined with the a culture surrounding the Colonial Spanish horse discussed here: The influence on CA tribal culture is documented in Born of Horses here: , the attached interview with Alvino Siva, and a plethora of documentation not listed.
    While the dna represents breed, the history of the culture supercedes issues addressed in the 1973 ESA special status criteria. Both are discussed here: More at: A horse culture is a tribal group or community whose day-to-day life revolves around the herding and breeding of horses.For example, the arrival of the horse in the Americas altered the culture of the Plains Indians. The horse increased mobility; the ability of the horse to cover a lot of ground in a very short period of time allowed native people to easily move from place to place, bringing on a nomadic shift in their culture, with an impact on transportation, trade, hunting and warfare.

    Policy to not list animals or Heritage herds must comply with the intent of Congress as stated in the opening of section of NHPA (National Historic Preservation Act), “the historical and cultural foundation of the Nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people” “It shall be the policy of the Federal Government in cooperation with other nations and in partnership with the States, local governments, Indian tribes, and private organizations and individuals to-foster conditions under which our society and historic resources can exist in productive harmony and fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations…contribute to the preservation of non federal lands and give maximum encouragement to organizations and individuals undertaking preservation by private means.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Corruption in this government for so long. This is a tragedy for our beloved wild Mustangs. They have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Death and destruction. Damn the BLM. They must be held accountable for their tragic mistakes. Killing so many. Unnecessary roundups. Not leaving enough wild horse families intact. I am sick of them not considering the wild horse groups and keeping them together. We have to recover the horse families we can. Sick of people purchasing out wild ones and they end up on kill pens lots, then we try to buy them back their freedom. I just did that for 7 caught in this horrid kill pen pipe line.STOP THIS MADNESS BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT. Lets FIGHT LIKE HELL TO GET THEM TO SANCTUARIES AND FREEDOM OF BUY BACK OUR OWN LAND FRIM THE DAMN GOVERNMENT AND MANAGE THEM RIGHT PLEASE. WILD HORSE WARRIOR JUDITH HAMILYON.

    Liked by 2 people

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