Federal officials resume Nevada wild horse roundup
RENO, Nev. (AP) – Federal land managers have removed about 250 more wild horses from a Nevada range after a judge allowed a controversial roundup of the animals to resume.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Doran Sanchez said the roundup in northern Elko County began again shortly after U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks on Friday rescinded a temporary restraining order.
The judge took the action at the request of the agency, which maintained more than 500 horses could die of dehydration in the next week if the roundup didn’t continue.
Horse advocates had sought to halt the roundup, saying it was inhumane to herd the animals by helicopter to trap sites in the hot summer temperatures.
The BLM suspended the roundup last weekend when seven horses died of dehydration and water intoxication after being herded on the first day of the roundup.
The BLM reported four more deaths Saturday, bringing to 17 the number of horses that have died since the roundup began. The agency has blamed 13 of the deaths on a lack of water on the range and not the roundup. Three other horses were put down because of physical deformities and another was euthanized after breaking a leg, Sanchez said.
BLM officials said most of the 246 horses gathered Friday and Saturday were being treated for dehydration and water starvation, as were 228 horses collected last weekend.
But officials said they were encouraged because other mustangs rounded up Saturday appeared to be in better condition as a result of more than 30,000 gallons of water that has been hauled to the roundup area by the agency.
“We’re surmising it’s a direct result that they’re starting to use water we’re putting out for them,” Sanchez said. “But we anticipate there are 300 more animals out there in potential serious situations resulting from a lack of water.”
In his ruling, Hicks also ordered the BLM to provide reasonable access to the roundup to horse advocate and author Laura Leigh of Minden, who sought the temporary restraining order to halt the operation.
But the agency denied Leigh and other activists access to the roundup Saturday by staging it on private property, said Anne Novak of the horse advocacy group Cloud Foundation based in Colorado.
“Obviously, the BLM wants to prevent the public from seeing the baby horses and older horses killed as a result of the roundup,” she said. “This censorship needs to stop.”
Sanchez said the actual trap sites are on private property, and the landowner won’t allow the public on his property.
“They can’t trespass on there, so we identified a couple of observation areas so they can kind of see what’s going on, but they can’t get to the trap sites or holding areas,” Sanchez said.
The 574 horses gathered so far are among up to 1,200 mustangs the BLM intends to remove from the range in the area. The BLM plans to make them available for adoption or send them to long-term holding facilities in the Midwest.
BLM officials say the roundups are necessary because the mustang population is growing so rapidly that the animals are running out of food and harming the range and native wildlife. Activists say the agency is removing the horses to make room for livestock grazing and energy interests.
BLM managers estimate that 38,000 mustangs and burros roam 10 Western states, and half are in Nevada. The agency is in the process of removing about 12,000 animals to bring their numbers down to what it considers an appropriate management level.