BLM criticized over mustang deaths in NV roundup
Associated Press Writer
RENO – Wild-horse advocates are calling for an independent investigation after the deaths of nine mustangs so far in a government roundup of the animals on the range north of Reno.
Two advocacy groups – In Defense of Animals, based in San Rafael, Calif., and the Cloud Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo. – criticized the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s handling of the roundup after two more deaths this past week.
A contractor is using two helicopters under BLM supervision to drive horses in the Calico Mountain Complex to corrals. Officials are then trucking the animals to a Fallon holding facility before placing them for adoption or sending them to long-term holding corrals in the Midwest.
BLM officials said the roundup is necessary because an over-population of mustangs is harming native wildlife and the range itself, and threatening the horses with starvation.
Horse activists maintain a colt was run so hard and long during the roundup that the hoof walls of its two hind feet came off, leaving exposed bones and nerves. The colt was euthanized Thursday at the Fallon facility.
The groups also contend a mare fell down in a trailer after being driven for miles on the range by helicopter and failed to receive any help on the four-hour drive to Fallon. The mare was still down on arrival in Fallon and died a short time later.
“These latest tragic and unnecessary deaths document beyond doubt that the BLM helicopter stampedes violate federal requirements for humane and minimally-intrusive management of wild horses,” said Dr. Elliot Katz, president of In Defense of Animals.
“(We) are calling for a full and independent investigation of these and other fatalities and injuries caused by the Calico roundup,” he added.
Katz’s group unsuccessfully sued to halt the roundup, claiming the use of helicopters to drive horses to corrals is inhumane and risks their injury and death.
BLM spokeswoman LoLynn Worley said less than 0.5 percent of wild horses gathered in such roundups die and the agency goes out of its way to minimize the risk to the animals. She disputed the groups’ accounts of the latest deaths.
Worley said the colt had no apparent health problems when it arrived in Fallon, but was placed on antibiotics a couple days later after it was observed with “acute lameness.”
“Apparently what happened is the colt’s two hind feet did develop abcesses and the pressure of that is what made the outer hoof area come off,” Worley said. “It was the veterinarian’s decision to euthanize him.”
Worley said it was speculation on the groups’ part that the mare stayed down in the trailer on the ride to Fallon.
“They stop the truck at various times to make sure animals are on their feet,” she said. “They make every effort to get horses back on their feet when they’re down.”
Worley said two horses have been euthanized and another horse died of a pre-existing condition at the roundup site.
Of six horses that have died at the Fallon facility, she said, five involved mares thought to have experienced difficulty making the transition to hay feed.
Another 20 to 25 horses at the facility are recovering after receiving treatment for various injuries or lameness.
Nearly 1,200 horses have been gathered from the Calico complex so far – about half of the mustangs the BLM plans to remove during the two-month roundup that began late December.
The government says the number of wild horses and burros on public lands in the West stands at nearly 37,000, about half of them in Nevada. It believes the number that can be supported on the range is about 26,600.