A federal judge is considering temporarily suspending the capture of wild horses in Nevada where their advocates say the federal government is “needlessly and recklessly” killing free-roaming mustangs in violation of U.S. laws.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du says she expects to rule by Monday, maybe sooner, on the advocates’ request for an emergency court order pending another hearing next week to learn more about the potential danger of roundup near the Utah state line.
The Bureau of Land Management insists it must gather the mustangs before the end of February — one of several scheduled on an expedited basis across the West due to severe drought.
Maggie Smith, a Justice Department lawyer, said a delay of even two or three days would prevent the agency from completing the removals before the end of the year.
The horse advocates say the agency is squeezing the roundup of 2,030 horses in Nevada into a month under an illegal environmental assessment of a series of gathers over 10 years. Of the 1,048 gathered as of Wednesday, the bureau says 11 have died.
The horse groups says the low-flying helicopters combined with “unsafe muddy conditions on the ground in mid-January create a purely artificial hazard that is deadly to these wild horses, a congressional protected, public natural resource.”
“This particular herd is foaling now and pregnant now,” Jessica Blome, their lawyer, told Du on Wednesday. “If they had followed the proper process and monitored the herd, they would know that.”