The Final Days of the Checkerboard Wild Horse Roundup Part II

Eyewitness account by photographer Carol Walker ~ Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Farewell Wild Horses of Wyoming

Day 24

Carol WalkerI am getting ready to drive out to Bitter Creek Road so I can get led out to the observation site for the 24th and hopefully last day of the Checkerboard Roundup in Wyoming. The Cattoors and the BLM hope to capture more than 100 wild horses today from Salt Wells Creek.

We are here again in Adobe Town, on public land, 3 miles from the trap site which is out of sight behind a hill. There is a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case on the subject of BLM restrictions of public observations of roundups, which states:

“To provide this First Amendment protection, the Supreme Court has long recognized a qualified right of access for the press and public to observe government activities.”

Even though we ask for a better, closer spot to view the roundup, we are told that this is the location that the contractor has selected.

Shortly after we arrived at the observation site 3 miles from the trap Shelley Gregory the public information specialist spotted a group of 20 horses coming down the hill and a few minutes later we spotted the helicopter. Then we can see more and more groups of horses converging. They are so small this far away they look like ants and all we can distinguish is lighter colored horses from the darker probably grey or appy. We finally count about 50 horses streaming in lines and standing out against the huge cloud of dust. As they go into the trap the dust billows wildly. The two helicopters immediately head right back out. Suddenly a gorgeous grulla stallion runs right in front of us heading away from the trap. We hope he runs and never stops. Then about 30 more horses are brought in by both helicopters in another cloud of dust.

Linda and I are the only observers on Day 24. A white pickup comes roaring up the hill and a tall, big woman leaps out and starts yelling at Linda, and gets right in her face, looming over her. She said I demand that you give me your name and address and phone numbers, how dare you tell me where I can be on my private land, and you have to tell me who made the phone call to the Cattoors. She started insisting that someone from yesterday had called the Cattoors and said she was too close and told the Cattoors to make her move. In the meantime I was getting alarmed and frightened so I called to Shelley Gregory, the Public Information Specialist who accompanies up to the observation site and she rushed over and so did the BLM ranger. They got between her and us, thankfully, and I was never so grateful in my life to have the ranger there. Both Linda and I said we did not make any such phone call, but she did not believe either of us.

Then she started ranting about “you people” who have all this money and do this lawsuit, and she has lost all this money having to remove cattle from her land because of the horses, and that RSGA had to do something about these inbred horses, running all over her land, they are just feral ranch horses, no Spanish blood, worthless, and her family has been there for 100 years long before the horses were there, which really is not true of course. The horses have been here hundreds of years before her family began welfare ranching in this location.

The horses are most certainly not inbred in this herd, which used to be one of the largest remaining wild horses herds. The numbers exceeded the minimum number, 150 adults, of wild horses necessary to sustain genetic viability. And Gus Cothran, the leading geneticist on our wild horses has been genetically testing the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creeks Herds for many years, and they have a high percentage of Spanish blood. she was ranting on and on I said you won, why are you yelling at us? They are taking all the horses. She said they can never get all the horses, they are still there. Luckily Shelley diffused the situation and took her aside and talked to her. The rancher asked where we were from and Linda said Colorado, asked for our names and towns and I said none of your business. Her mother, a small lady with white hair came out and told us that a stallion had taken the saddle pad right off of her daughter’s horse one time.

I said why don’t you just leave and she said this is public land you cannot make me leave and proceeded to stay up there for another hour and a half, probably just to annoy me. She had had a much better viewing spot than we did earlier before she came to harass us. She asked me what I was doing because I was typing on my phone as she was yelling at Linda, and asked if I were blogging about her and I said yes, and then she started ranting again about all the lies I was spreading about her. As she is muttering you better hope that your car doesn’t break down out here I know that I would rather walk the 20+ miles back to the highway than ask her for help.

Just before they left, she told me she wanted me to not post any pictures of her ranch on Facebook, would I not do that – I told her I don’t care about her ranch, I am here for the horses. She stomped off and drove away, and we were very relieved that she left.

I think it is a shame that she is the only representative of RSGA that anyone has been able to talk to. The four journalists who have been here during the roundup have all said that RSGA has been unwilling to give them an interview.

Helicopters brought in two more groups one of about 16 and another of 6 bringing the total for today to about 95. The helicopter was chasing a lone horse back and forth, back and forth, he stopped and went to meet another horse and possibly a foal. Then the helicopter peeled off possibly to refuel. We heard they are just going to possibly be bringing one more small group. We hope we are allowed to go see the horses in temporary holding once they are done.

I am now waiting to go into the temporary holding facility to see the over 100 horses that brought into the trap today from Salt Wells Creek near the Eversole Ranch. The last horse brought in today had the helicopter right over him for about an hour. He looked bewildered and slowed to a stop and a walk. We asked what they were doing and found out he was a young sorrel yearling and they were bringing a rider on horseback to catch him and put him in a trailer, which they finally did. The wrangler caught him and trotted and cantered with him to the trailer and he got in with the saddle horse and was taken to temporary holding.

As we were packing up to leave the observation point this morning after the helicopters finished for the day we were really surprised to hear and so were our BLM escorts to hear that this might NOT in fact be the last day of the roundup. Apparently there may be some more horses needing to be removed from the Checkerboard area even though the number removed is close to 1200 wild horses. We were told that because the number so far exceeded their estimates they were having a conference call with Washington D.C. this afternoon and that they might be rounding up more horses tomorrow. After what happened this morning with the woman from Eversole Ranch I think it is highly likely that she has been aggressively complaining that they did not catch every single horse on both her private and public leased land. This is speculation on my part, of course.

When we went into the temporary holding area in Salt Wells Creek this afternoon, we asked Sue Cattoor about what had actually happened with the rancher from Eversole and what had actually happened was she was parked too close to the path of the horses being driven on by the helicopters and Dave Cattoor called her and asked her to move. It had absolutely nothing to with us or any other member of the public observing the roundup at this trap site. The new location she moved to was still at least a mile closer than we were allowed to go.

At the temporary holding corrals late this afternoon I learned that they captured 129 horses today bringing the total to 1217 wild horses removed from their families and their homes. If they do capture 30-40 tomorrow on the really last day of the roundup they will have over 1250.
We did see the sorrel colt that had to be roped and put in the trailer – I had thought he was a yearling because he was so far away as it turns out he was a little foal too little to be weaned. He was happily reunited with his mother. There was a death today, in the morning, a weanling foal broke his neck when being sorted out for transport. The horses in the pens that we saw looked good and the big bay roan stallion was still king of the stallion corral.

Day 25

Linda and I left even though we knew they would be rounding up horses on this last day – neither of us wanted to go through another confrontation at the observation site with the angry rancher. Although the BLM ranger prevented us from being punched or even shot, he did not prevent the bullying and intimidation.

47 more wild horses are removed and the roundup is finally concluded. Of course the BLM has to have the last word, and posts on their Wyoming Facebook page that it is OUR fault that they removed 1263 instead of 800 wild horses in this roundup:

“Appeals and motions delayed removal operations, allowing more wild horses to move across the fluid boundary from solid block public lands into the checkerboard in preparation for winter and in search of water; thus, the population estimate for the checkerboard was surpassed by the number of wild horses actually removed.”

The truth is, we sought an emergency injunction to stop the roundup from occurring so that our case might be heard on its merits BEFORE the horses were rounded up and removed, because if we had won, none of these horses would have been removed. We lost the temporary injunction and the roundup went on. Our case has still not been heard, and the horses are being shipped or are already in Rock Springs and Canon City short term holding facilities.

I am sick, physically sick, and sick in heart and soul about what is happening to those horses right now. We will not hear about the rest of the deaths and injuries that will occur in transport and at the short term holding facilities. We will not hear about the final fate that can happen when the BLM sells the older horses under the Sale Authority Act, when they most likely will end up at slaughter. We may hear about the approximately 4% that get adopted.

To rub more salt in the wound, the BLM posted on Facebook these close up photos of these beautiful horses running into the trap, photos that they took close to the trap, an area none of the public were allowed to go into. The images I took that are in this post were taken at the public observation point with the longest lens available. The horses are simply dots.

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Pictorial: Day 12 Wild Horse Checkerboard Roundup ~ Lost Freedoms, Families and Futures

Eye Witness Observations by Carol Walker ~ Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“Today was a very tough day for me for a number of reasons. But no matter how tough it was for me, I always keep in mind, it is a thousand times tougher for these horses who lose everything dear to them, their families, their homes and their freedom all at once.”

Waiting to head out to the next observation point for the Checkerboard Roundup. It is a little later in the morning. I will be posting updates if I have cell service out there.

We have been waiting for almost 2 hours at the Point of Rocks exit for the Cattoors to come and set up the next trap site. Now we moved to Bitter Creek Road and the helicopters are looking for a trap site for the last few horses in the Great Divide Basin Checkerboard area. I was told they are waiting for an archeologist to come and clear the site and it may be another 2 hours before the helicopters fly driving the horses into the trap. We are headed to a coal mine where apparently about 16 horses have been living for many years within the fenced area around it. Why on earth I wonder, do they have to remove these horses? How are they disturbing the operation of the mine? It is a huge area.

The BLM vehicle speeds up Bitter Creek road so fast that dust billows up in spots, because it is so dry here. Several times I slow, and fall way behind the vehicle in front so that I can see. The road is so dusty following the BLM to the trap. I am concerned I might lose them because I have no idea where we are going, but I am more concerned that I do not fly off the road into the steep ditch next to it because I cannot see it. At one point I could not see anything at all except the boiling dust, so I stopped because I was afraid of going off the road into the ditch, and suddenly there is a bang, and the Ranger’s truck behind me rear ends my car. We stop and get out to see the damage. We keep going to a junction in the road where we still have cell service and then wait for the county sheriff to come and file a report on the accident. This was not at all how I thought this day would go.

We headed finally to the trap in the mine area. We missed 4 horses coming in while meeting with the county sheriff but there are at least 12 more they are trying to get. It is wild and beautiful and quiet out here with gorgeous view of Black Rock and the surrounding mountains.

After we arrived to our observation point a half mile way but with a view of the trap for a change, I observed the longest chase I have ever seen, over an hour, of 8 wild horses by the helicopter in the coal mine area. These eight wild horses including a foal were running up and down steep hills and ridges in the hottest part of the day. They finally went into the trap with lots of close pressure from the helicopter at the very end. He had to circle back to get a line black horse trotting slowly who almost ran back out but finally went into the trap. By this time I was pulling for the horses to finally be caught and end this for the sake of their health. Never before in all my years as an advocate and in the 10 years I have been observing roundups have I been pulling for the horses to go INTO a trap, just to make it stop.

There seems to be a major problem with this trap, despite the fact that the archeologist Ok’d it, the Cattoors don’t seem to have selected it wisely to conform to the landscape and make it easy for the horses to enter as they usually do. The hills are so very steep, and the horses are heading up this one ridge which overlooks the trap, and naturally when they see the trap, they do not want to go in, they run off, and then the helicopter has to chase and chase and chase to get them to approach it and go in.

Helicopter just drove in a family of 6 the brave red stallion in front who kept looking back at his family and three foals and two mares came in after going up hills down in the mine up ridges down valleys and up on a really scary ridge where luckily they stopped then turned around. The red stallion finally led his family into the trap and I sighed with relief I did not want to see them run any more when the intention is to get them all.

We are told they are leaving the two horses who are still in the mine there, and we think they might be done for the day.

But suddenly the helicopter flies out in a direction I have not seen him head, behind us, and we see a family of four pop up over the ridge. The bay stallion is in the back, sorrel mare and foal in the middle, with a black mare leading, and they are running very fast. They fly across the terrain. They are finally driven on top of the ridge near the trap, and they run right by it. The helicopter chases them around the ridge and finally at the top of the ridge they wheel and turn, the helicopter wheels too and from our angle it looks as though it might hit them, but our perspective is distorted, and it is hard to see in the dust. It looks as though they were all going in the trap, but it is only the elegant black mare, who trips somehow and flips over. She gets up and continues into the pen at the end of the trap. On the other side of the hill the foal pops out, and I wonder if he has become separated from his family, but no his mother joins him. The stallion runs as fast as he can in the opposite direction, and I hear that they are letting him go. The helicopter pulls up and flies off, and the exhausted mare and foal slow to a walk, and we wonder, is it really over? Can they actually go free? Down below the Cattoors are packing up the trap, which seems to be answer enough. We watch the bay stallion top a ridge, and pause, looking down, as if he is wondering if it is safe. He trots down to his mare and foal, and they trot up to join him. It is such a very bittersweet moment. I am feeling joy for this small family, that at least the three of them are reunited and will live at least for now in their home in Great Divide Basin. But it is a harsh and cruel reminder of all the horses like the black mare in their family who will never roam free there again.

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Arizona Wild Burro Roundup Remains Controversial

by Michelle Faust as published on

“We need a little bit of a more of a hands-off approach to let them regulate naturally”

Baby Wild Burros Captured and Imprisoned by the BLM ~ photo by Terry Fitch

YUMA, Ariz. — Early morning on the Colorado River, you expect to see boats and hear a few mosquitoes; It’s rare to see boatloads of wild burros. Wranglers have driven these animals for the last several days with helicopters and on horseback, but today they are unloading the grey equine off of a barge.

Wranglers use rattles and flags to push the animals into a holding pen, from there they’ll be loaded on to vehicles that will transport them to Ridgecrest, Calif. where they will be prepared for adoption.

Since 1971, the Bureau of Land Management has been removing horses and burros from the wild across the Western United States. Burros in Arizona are believed to have been set free by miners in the 19th century.

John Hall is the Wild Horse and Burro Specialist for the local BLM.  He said the goal is to gather 350 of the 711 burros in this area.  Hall said they are a non-native species that pose a threat to other flora and fauna.

“These animals are over utilizing the native vegetation that the wildlife here depend on,” Hall said. “And when you have this overuse by the burros, it poses an immediate threat to the native wildlife.”

Conservationists dispute the number of burros the area can support and raise concerns about the use of helicopters for rounding them up in the Southwestern Arizona heat.

Congressman Raul Grijalva wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Interior requesting the animals not be gathered at temperatures above 90 degrees. This year, the policy was changed to stop corralling before temperatures hit 95.

Susanne Roy of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign said that’s a move in the right direction.

“We need a little bit of a more of a hands-off approach to let them regulate naturally. And then in those situations where they are not regulating naturally, we will then need to use a fertility vaccine to assist in that process,” Roy said. “And this will be a far more humane approach than these brutal round-ups every four years.”

Sue Cattoor is the contractor managing the roundup for the BLM.  She said the helicopters do not put as much stress on the equine as people might imagine.

“[The animal learns] to respect that helicopter, but he’s not really afraid of it,” Cattoor said. “He knows it’s back there and he’s going to keep moving away from it because they’re a flight animal, but he’s not terrified like people think they are of ’em.”

Traditionally the wild burros have had a near 100 percent adoption rate, but this year it’s less; 900 unadopted burros are in holding facilities with the BLM.

Click (HERE) to read the article in its entirety and to Comment

BLM Uses Junk Science to Attack Another Wild Horse Herd

story by Mary Bernard, of the Vernal Express

Bad Numbers and Propaganda Permeate BLM’s Justification for Wiping out Herd

(The comments made by the BLM and their associates do NOT reflect the opinion of the staff of SFTHH)

Cowboys and helicopters worked earlier this month to gather 109 wild horses from the Winter Ridge Herd Area, roughly 60 miles south of Vernal.

Range conditions forced the removal of the herd from the public lands under the direction of Vernal Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management.

“There’s barely enough range to support the herd as it is,” said Gus Warr, director of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program in Utah.

An environmental assessment of the range indicated the herd had exceeded the available forage.

“In a good year, one animal needs seven to eight acres of forage,” Warr said. “But in a bad year up to 20 acres might sustain one horse.”

The cumulative effect of drought, disease, heavy snows and lack of winter forage have taken their toll on the animals. Herd records were first made in 1977, when 40 animals were counted. But within five years the number had dwindled to eight animals.

“I truly believe these animals should be left wild and free,” said Lisa Friday, a wild horse advocate from Richmond, Va., who traveled to Utah to observe the roundup.

“The alternative is natural selection,” she said, noting that the forces of nature are effective in population control.

Friday also disputes the BLM’s findings of deficient range on Winter Ridge.

“Look at this, there’s grass everywhere,” she said while standing near the corrals. Her advocacy has led her to testify before Congress to stop the BLM’s actions.

An unusually wet spring left the herd in good shape this year in contrast to most years. But after years of difficult management the BLM determined the Winter Ridge Herd Area was not a suitable habitat to sustain the horses.

“Today, we estimate between 120 and 150 animals — horses, burros, and at least two mules — roam the Winter Ridge Herd Area of 46,500 acres,” said BLM public affairs specialist Lisa Reid.

These are not the legendary mustangs of western lore. Instead they are feral horses escaped from nearby ranches and tribal properties, according to the BLM’s environmental assessment. Their range is a wind-swept landscape on the edge of the Bookcliffs shared by oil and natural rigs, hunters, ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The BLM and Cattoor Livestock Roundup Inc. from Nephi spent the days leading up to the Sept. 9 roundup attempting to get an accurate count of the herd and scout a location to place their trap — an area where horses are brought in large groups, and then moved to corrals.

“The trap site needs to be carefully selected in a place close to the animals and somewhere they would naturally go,” said Cattoor spokeswoman Sue Cattoor.

“The trap site is selected for humane capture of the animals and not necessarily public viewing,” Cattoor said.

Still, assistant director of the Utah State School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, Kim Christy, whose agency’s lands are included in the herd area, was able to visit the trap site. Christy, who said his agency “applauds the initiative of the BLM in taking this action,” was given full access to the gather beyond the restricted areas.

Cattoor said restricted access is crucial because the company carries millions of dollars in liability insurance to ensure the safety of people and horses during a helicopter roundup.

The roundup procedures, in general, used two helicopters flying low to slowly drive small bands of horses into a trap. On Sept. 9, the helicopter flew just over the horses, “herding them up a hillside into the narrowing wings of a fence line covered with jute,” said Shane Sampson, a wrangler for the drive.

“A prodder horse leads them into a catch pen where we separate the studs, foals and mares into holding corrals,” he added.

Once separated, the horses were loaded about a dozen at a time onto trailers and transported to holding pens. The process was repeated until all the horses were removed from the trap.

It was a fairly calm process designed to keep the animals quiet in order to reduce injury among the herd.

Once captured, a final health evaluation and sort in the holding pens was completed by U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian Al Cane. He refused to comment on the condition of the Winter Ridge herd after collection, but an overall assessment by BLM officials rated the animals’ body condition as “normal.”

However, Reid told the Vernal Express that two horses had to be destroyed after the gather.

“Two were humanely euthanized after it was determined their injuries were significant,” she said. “These were old injuries and neither animal was hurt during the gather.”

Reid went on to say that officials traveled into Bull Canyon near Winter Ridge where they located an additional 50 horses, mules and burros.

“The terrain presents its own set of challenges, as not every locality is open enough to fly helicopters,” Reid said.

Altogether 36 studs, 46 mares, 26 foals and one gelding were gathered in the roundup. The animals were kept at the holding facility pending further tests for equine infectious anemia. As of Sept. 12, all blood samples taken had come back negative and all horses were being prepared for transport to the Delta Wild Horse and Burro Facility.

The facility houses the animals short-term before they are sent to pastures in Eastern states or adopted. Adoptions are by appointment only, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are closed on federal holidays. Call 435-743-3100 for information.

Happy Birthday Cloud, For What It’s Worth

(In My Humble Opinion) by R.T. Fitch ~ Author/Director of HfH Advisory Council

An Open Letter to Cloud, the Wild Stallion of the Rockies

Photo by Terry Fitch

Happy Birthday Cloud;

On behalf of  all self-actualized and compassionate human beings I would like to extend to you a most heartfelt congratulations, this day, on the advent of your sixteenth year of accompanying us on this voyage across time and space upon the spaceship we call Earth.

Sixteen years ago a wonderful cinematographer and her friend witnessed you entering this world.  At that time you probably had no idea of the mantle of responsibility and notoriety that you would bear upon your withers and soul.  As a young palomino, born wild amongst some of the most wondrous grandeur known on earth, you didn’t have a clue as to your destiny or the part you would play in the trivial game of human ego, greed and cruelty.  And if I had my way, you still would not know.

But like so many of your brethren you were not spared the cruelty of the perverted, special interests of human greed as you were harassed, terrorized, rounded up, imprisoned and ultimately released, unlike tens of thousands of others, to live out your hard life wild but all knowing of what ferments just behind the façade of those who walk on two legs; you know.

You are now the most hated and despised wild horse known to the U.S. Federal Government, specifically the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  When Ginger Kathrens began to document your life amongst the Pryor Mountains she, unknowingly, gave the plight of American wild horse a story, a face, a name…yours…and with that, there is now a bull’s-eye upon your head, along with that of your benefactor, Ms. Kathrens.

The BLM has foolishly made you a tool of punishment and manipulation as they have inhumanely chased, captured and terrorized you and your family.  If this special interest funded federal agency could make you go away tonight there would be a bullet between your eyes and politically they would do the same to Ginger Kathrens.

You represent all that is good with the American spirit, the sense of freedom and wholesomeness that we once rallied around, but now you are an obstacle and a nuisance that is in the way of the high paying special interests that seek to rape the Pryor’s of their natural resources and line the pockets of the criminals that hold bogus leadership positions within our government and for this, I apologize.

This is not so much a message of cheer but one of apology for the wrongs that have been committed against you and your brethren across the vast expanse of the benevolent horse nation.  On behalf of those who care, we are sorry.

We are sorry for the slaughter, the deaths, the injuries, the broken families, the lies, the deceit, the false promises and most of all, I apologize for being human.  If I had a way or the power to stand beside you as a stallion that honestly loved, cared and protected his family, I would be there.  But my curse pains me to the bone; I am one of them…a liar, a cheat and one who does not speak from the heart.  I am human and for that, I am sorry.

Cloud; you have made a mark that even a bullet and the BLM cannot erase; you are the voice, leader and inspiration for the salvation of our disappearing national icon, the American Wild Horse.  I thank you for what you are, who you are and where you have brought us as if it were not for you and the pain we witnessed you suffer at the hands of Obama’s BLM we would not be in this fight.  Thank you for opening our eyes, thank you for being all that we cannot be and thank you for being alive.

Happy Birthday Cloud, you have changed our lives in more ways than you could ever imagine and you are the engine that drives our advocacy.  Never become a martyr but instead continue to be the most powerful driving force in the animal kingdom focusing the spotlight upon humankind’s most despicable and inhumane behavior; the twisted and corrupt actions of the BLM.

Be strong, Cloud, and above all…be safe.

Happy Birthday!

BLM Denies Wild Horses are “Stampeded”

Story by Steven Long ~ Author/Publisher of Horseback Magazine

Running Horses until they Die is Not a Stampede in BLMese

BLM's Cattoor Chopper "NOT" stampeding wild horse family at Twin Peaks, Stampede ~ Photo by Terry Fitch

HOUSTON, (Horseback) – Officials of the federal Bureau of Land Management have become increasingly sensitive to the media’s frequent use of a common English word. Horseback Online and many other news sites have used the word “stampede” to describe what BLM bureaucrats in Washington routinely describe as a “gather.”

In a note to Horseback on the first Monday of the year, BLM’s chief Washington spokesman Tom Gorey said, “Wild horses and burros are not stampeded during gathers. Go observe one for yourself. Stampede is an anti-BLM propaganda term, pure and simple.”

Horseback responded.

“Tom, stampede is a word common to the English language. Your response drove me to my copy of the 2,129 page Webster’s Universal Dictionary,” said Horseback Magazine Editor Steven Long. “The definition I quote in the first reference is ‘A sudden headlong running away of a group of frightened animals, especially horses or cattle.’ That seems to fit perfectly what I have seen in every video of the BLM roundups. I don’t view it as a propaganda term whatsoever, and I’m certainly not anti-BLM as you well know. It is simply a term which best describes for my reader, in common language he will understand, what is going on. While I’m certain BLM would prefer me to call these things a gentle trot down the trail, that doesn’t seem to be fitting considering hundreds of horses have died in the process.

Horseback has also learned that controversial BLM chase contractors, Cattoor Livestock Roundups have been awarded a new five year contract.

“October 1, started a new contract for the wild horses roundups and CLR, and another company, Sun J, received the two awards for the next 5 years,” Sue Cattoor told Horseback Magazine last week. We asked Ms. Cattoor about the new firm.

“They are not based out of Nephi, but out of Vernal, Utah, and they are not related to us,” she said.

Asked if the BLM had used any new criteria in awarding the contracts to Cattoor in light of the unprecedented number of wild horse deaths in 2010, Gory said it was business as usual.

“The Cattoors have demonstrated an ability to conduct safe and humane roundups, so that’s why their contract was renewed,” Gorey said.

Today, CNN ran a story critical of BLM’s wild horse roundups showing a helicopter flipping a donkey with its skid. The news network didn’t identify the company chasing the burro.

Horseback asked Gorey if pilots actually touching animals with the skids of their helicopters was taken into consideration in awarding contracts.

“Regarding the new footage concerning the burro, I’m trying to get the specifics of where and when this happened,” Gorey said.

In earlier video shown on You Tube, a horse appeared to be flipped by another helicopter flying low, its skid apparently touching the animal. Again the company flying the helicopter in the chase wasn’t identified.

“Several weeks ago a piece of footage purporting to show a horse getting flipped over by a helicopter was shown on YouTube,” Gorey responded. “The footage, in point of fact, shows no such thing.”

Asked if in light of the overwhelming number of equine deaths caused by BLM in its 2010 “gather” schedule, BLM was considering ceasing helicopter roundups.

“No. Gathers are necessary to protect rangeland health,” he said.

Click (HERE) to Visit Horseback Magazine

BLM Delivers another Public Relations Nightmare

Press Release from the Equine Welfare Alliance

Heaps of BLM B.S. Does Not Hide All the Wild Horses Killed

Dying Calico Foal who's hooves were run off by BLM contractor Dave Cattoor ~ Photo by Laura Leigh

Chicago (EWA) – The Bureau of Land Management’s December 3rd Observer’s Report evaluating BLM’s handling of wild horse round-ups has left advocates and independent observers stunned. It is impossible, they say, to reconcile the positive, almost congratulatory findings with the mountain of negative evidence they have collected over the past year.

The disconnect appears to begin with BLM’s appointment of Robin Lohnes to its Wild Horse Advisory Board. Lohnes in turn appointed the “independent observers”.

Lohnes is the executive director of the American Horse Protection Association (AHPA). The AHPA has no website and maintains only a small, unoccupied office on the lower level of a Georgetown hotel. If the organization has been involved in any activity (horse protection or otherwise) since the 1990’s they have managed to conceal it both from Google and from the hotel’s maid who told an EWA investigator that she had never observed anyone in the office.

The report’s observers witnessed a 3 – 4 day period from 3 round-ups conducted during the summer; the Owyhee Herd Management Area (HMA) in Nevada, the Stinking Waters HMA in Oregon, and the Twin Peaks HMA in California.

Typical of the findings were comments like, “contractor and BLM personnel appeared to be gentle and knowledgeable, horses did not exhibit undue stress or show signs of extreme sweating or duress due to the helicopter portion of the gather…”

It is difficult to reconcile this with independent observations at round-ups like that in the Calico complex. There, the helicopter, that the report claims was no louder than a riding mower, literally ran hooves off of foals. There were at least 39 simultaneous abortions in pregnant mares and a reported death toll of 160. Dozens of videos and hundreds of photographs were released that tell a totally different story than the observer’s report.

Virtually every round-up over the past year has had inexcusable incidents that would have no doubt gone unreported if independent observers were not present to capture the incidents on video and photographs. A recent round-up video documents a stallion that was literally lifted off the ground by a helicopter. In another case, BLM’s “gentle and knowledgeable veterinarian” was captured on video amusing himself by poking a stick at terrorized mustangs packed into a truck.

Suzanne Roy, Director of American Wild Horse Preservation commented “This biased report is an attempt to deflect increased scrutiny on and public opposition to the BLM’s inhumane wild horse roundups. The report’s authors do not have any wild horse handling experience and its conclusions are not credible and lack scientific validity.”

One hand-picked observer is outspoken horse slaughter proponent, Dr. Carolyn Stull from the University of California, Davis. Dr. Stull aggressively opposed Proposition 6 in California, a law that banned the slaughter of horses. She testified that there would be increases in abuse and neglect if the proposition was passed. Not only did her warnings prove false, but horse thefts decreased 39% in the year after the law was enacted (1998), and continued to decline over the years that followed.

The Equine Welfare Alliance and wild horse advocates across the country are calling for an independent commission appointed by Congress to oversee the Wild Horse and Burro Program. Enough tax payer dollars have been wasted on Public Relation firms to change the perception of a rouge government agency that has no intention of changing.

For the BLM to regain any credibility, their claims of being transparent must be backed-up with actions. Allowing truly independent observers at all stages of round-ups and at holding facilities would be a good start.

EWA President John Holland summed up the organization’s position, saying “The BLM needs to understand that this is the age of Wikileaks, cell phone cameras and YouTube. Attempting to hide a smoldering pile of misdeeds with a fanciful report, instead of trying to fix problems, only makes the agency look more dishonest and inept.

The Equine Welfare Alliance is a dues free, umbrella organization with over 125 member organizations. The organization focuses its efforts on the welfare of all equines and the preservation of wild equids.

BLM Issues Biased Report to Intentionally Mislead Congress and Public on Wild Horse Issue

By: American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

Hand Picked Panel Distorts Truth to Favor BLM’s Cruelty

WASHINGTON, D.C. Dec. 3, 2010 – Today, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) – a coalition of 40 leading public interest, environmental, and humane organizations – criticized and labeled as “biased and politically motivated” the issuance of an Interior DepartmentBureau of Land Management (BLM) report on the treatment of wild horses in government roundups. Its release coincides with Congress finalizing of 2011 fiscal legislation in which BLM’s wild horse budget will be allocated.

The report (“Independent Designated Observer Pilot Program, October 2010”) glosses over the humane issues that have triggered Congressional concern. It was created by a hand-picked organization, the American Horse Preservation Association which is led by BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board’s chair Robyn Lohnes. The four individuals employed to write the report have backgrounds in agriculture and domestic horses, but lack hands on wild horse experience. The majority have been vocal advocates of horse slaughter.

“This biased report is an attempt to deflect increased scrutiny on and public opposition to the BLM’s inhumane wild horse roundups,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC Campaign Director. “The report’s authors do not have any wild horse handling experience and its conclusions are not credible and lack scientific validity.”

She noted that in July, more than 54 members of Congresses wrote to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressing their concerns and calling for a halt to the round ups. Department spokespersons have admitted (video available here) that they have a difficult time explaining the agency’s treatment of wild horses to the public, and as a result, the BLM has severely restricted public observation at most roundups this year.

“The Interior Department’s decision to work with one organization rather than with the diverse and numerous organizations that have hands-on experience with wild horses, outlines the intention behind and problems with the report,” Roy continued. “We find it highly objectionable and offensive that the agency is using one organization as a voice for ‘humane observation’ when there are other organizations and individuals better qualified to address this issue.”

Many findings in the report defy credibility, including:

* The helicopters used to stampede horses into BLM trap pens are “reasonably quiet, no louder than a riding mower.”
* BLM and contractors “showed ability to review, assess and adapt procedures to ensure the care and well being of animals to the best of their ability” with regard to the water intoxication deaths of 13 wild horses, who had been stampeded in summer desert heat in Nevada. By contrast, an equine veterinarian with 24 years experience reviewed the circumstances of that situation and concluded that the BLM’s actions constituted, “negligent management” and a “lapse of professional judgment.”

Experts with wild horse experience have reached a different conclusion regarding BLM wild horse roundups. One of them, Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, director of science and conservation biology at ZooMontana, in Billings, Montana told National Geographic in 2009:

“I’m not a bunny hugger, but I’ll never attend another gather as long as I live. They’re flat-out inhumane.”

Kirkpatrick has spent more than 30 years studying wild horses and developing successful fertility control programs for the animals.

In addition, the Internet is populated with video, photographs and eyewitness accounts of the trauma, injury and suffering wild horses are subjected to during the course of roundups and capture. A few such incidents include:

* Owyhee roundup: the government contractor shot a mare and foal on the range without reporting these deaths until after public member found the dead bodies
* Silver King roundup: contractor actions caused stallion death. After the contractor tied a saddle horse to the pen where a stallion and his mare were held; the stallion broke his neck when charging the pen where the saddle horse was tied
* Calico roundup: foals were chased by helicopters for so long, their hooves were destroyed (hoof slough) and the foals were killed

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Supported by a coalition of over 40 organizations, its grassroots campaign seeks:

* A suspension of roundups in all but verifiable emergency situations while the entire BLM wild horse program undergoes objective and scientific review;
* Higher Appropriate Management Levels (AML) for wild horses on those rangelands designated for them;
* Implementation of in-the-wild management, which would keep wild horses on the range and save taxpayers millions annually by avoiding the mass removal and stockpiling wild horses in government holding facilities

Aerial Survey Reveals Twin Peaks Wild Horse Population Decimated

by Maureen Harmonay ~ Equine Advocacy Examiner ~ LIVE LINK

Equine Advocates Use Science Against BLM’s Bad Math

Cattle at Twin Peaks ~ Photo by Terry Fitch

A September 24th flyover survey of the California-Nevada Twin Peaks Herd Management Area by respected wildlife ecologist Craig Downer reveals that only about 265 wild horses remain in this 798,000-acre range in the wake of the recent BLM roundup, which captured 1638 horses.  Fourteen of those horses died in BLM custody or as a direct result of physical injuries or trauma sustained during their capture.

Mr. Downer’s conclusions are in stark contrast to the BLM’s own estimation of the remaining wild horse population at Twin Peaks, which it puts at 793.  As is shown in Mr. Downer’s chart of Supporting Population Data for this HMA, published yesterday by the Equine Welfare Alliance, BLM’s figures are “contradictory to the historic population data and viable reproductive rates.”

During his four-hour aerial reconnaisance over 133.3 miles of the Twin Peaks HMA in late September, Mr. Downer and his pilot actually observed 186 cattle but only seven wild horses, in two bands on the east side of the territory:

“One male-female pair and another group of five, composed of a stallion, three mares, and a colt.  They were located near rocky cliffs and had been grazing on grassy mesas in the higher reaches of the HMA.  They seemed to cling to these remote, rugged redoubts, which perhaps had permitted them to escape the helicopters that had so decimated their numbers.”

Ominously, Mr. Downer did not see even a single burro during his flight, leading to his conclusion that “the population could be dangerously low.”  The BLM reported on September 3rd that it had released only one of the 160 burros it had captured, but Mr. Downer maintains that “all burros should be returned (to the HMA) to ensure a minimal genetically viable population.”

In light of his findings, Mr. Downer is calling for the BLM to restore the wild horse population to 448 horses, a number that it has determined to be the low Appropriate Management Level (AML) for Twin Peaks.  To accomplish this, he is urging the BLM to release 187 wild horses and all of the 159 burros it had captured during the controversial six-week roundup.

Mr. Downer’s Report may be Downloaded (HERE)

Part III: For the Love of Wild Horses

Part III of a series by R.T. Fitch – author of “Straight from the Horse’s Heart

Click (HERE) for part One and (HERE) for part Two

The Straws that Broke the Horse’s Back

Terry Fitch at Cloud's Roundup 09/07/09 ~ photo by R.T. Fitch

On September 7th, 2009 my wife, Terry, pressed her lips against my right ear and whispered “We have to do something” as her tears ran down the right side of my face and “Cloud the Stallion of the Rockies” reluctantly lead his family into to the trap that the BLM had waiting for him.

“We have to do something”, rang in my ears and deprived me of sleep during the bloody Calico roundup, in early winter of this year, where over a 140 horses have died and now the remainder are slipping off into obscurity.

“We have to do something”, pulled at my heart as we watched dozens of horses die at the hands of the BLM and their contractors, the Cattoors, during the Owyhee stampede in early July.  Laura Leigh put up a valiant fight to witness for the horses yet the BLM, Cattoors and the Federal judge thwarted her every attempt.

That phrase ringing in my ears caused me to sit down with my lovely bride and openly discuss what we “could” do to make a difference for the horses.  How could two, nondescript, American citizens do something sustainable; an effort that would have a lasting effect on the future of the horses and the way in which the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mismanages our disappearing national Icon.

“Sue them”, came back the forceful response from the lithe figure that never had a bad word to say about anyone, “Sue them right down into the dirt.  They just cannot continue to thumb their nose at the law and the American public.  Sue them until it hurts.” Terry hissed.

I calmly reminded her that to do so takes money, lots of money and the woman who takes care of our books and brought me back from a former single man’s fiscal life of ruin said, “We’ll do it, we can get it started but let’s not sit here and talk about it, let’s do it.”

So the inquiries went out to some of the most reputable advocacy foundations and groups in the land until we found our attorney.  I won’t mention a name here as I do not know if I am authorized but he is noted as being one of the good guys and away we went.

Our firm paired with other firms and attorneys, some worked pro-bono others could not because everyone needs to eat but all have been forgiving with logging their time.

We did not want to chase the BLM across the west with TROs as in the long run that would have no lasting effect and long range would not help the horses but instead we wanted to research and find a weak spot in the BLM’s armor, a little dent that they were unaware was present so if we pressed real hard we could thrust our suit into their vitals and maybe effect positive change for the future of the wild horses; our legal team found that spot.

But it did not take Terry and I long to realize that we couldn’t sustain this fight from our own personal finances for long.  It was then that I noticed sitting high up on the shelf in the library the dusty yet functional 501c4 Habitat for Horses Advisory Council so we cleaned it up, prayed for support, breathed some life into the organization and set out to be the “Legal Voice for the American Equine.”  What was created over a year earlier by three tired old cowboys over iced tea and BBQ was about to make a difference for the horses of the United States.

Last week you saw our first victory, we made the BLM flinch and if not for our legal team and the support of our plaintiffs the horses of West Douglas could have very well been under helicopter assault at the time of this writing.  And there is more to come, we are not going away, you have not heard the last of us for we have had a plan in the works and we are now working that plan.

Running a parallel course with our friends at Grass Roots Horse we can be an effective legal army against the horrific indiscretions of the BLM as they will never know which way we are coming, they will not be privy to the timing of our next attack and they will not be able to defend themselves in a court of law when indisputable facts are laid out for all to see.

We are in it to win, to win for the horses as the time has come to stop hurling only words at this rogue agency but to cut them off at their very knees and put them out of the wild horse and burro killing business once and for all.  Along with many other admirable groups, we plan to put a stop to this and it had better be sooner than later.

So for the love of the wild horses, join us, become one of us and let’s stand together as tax paying Americans and regain control over a government agency that has gone amuck.

We thank you for your comradeship, your valuable friendship and most of all for your most appreciated support.

Keep the faith as the horses are depending on us and we have no intention of letting them down.