Claims of mistreatment of wild horses invokes cries to halt roundup
(KUTV) -- The American Wild Horse Campaign released photos taken Monday of the Bureau of Land Management's wild horse roundup that show helicopters flying low to the ground and close to the fleeing horses, in addition to horses running through barbed wire fencing, some horses stumbling and falling.
The wild horse roundup took place in the Bible Springs Complex and the Sulphur Herd Management Area in Southern Utah, according to a news release.
The Campaign called on the BLM to ground the helicopters and investigate the handling of the wild horses saying the roundup Monday violated the BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy for helicopter drives.
“We call on the BLM to suspend the roundup underway currently in Utah by grounding the helicopters while an investigation is undertaken of the animal welfare violations documented by our observer,” stated Campaign Executive Director Suzanne Roy, who wrote the letter to Roberson. “There is a way to manage wild horses, and this is not it.”
She continued, "Nearly hitting wild horses with helicopters, repeatedly causing them to crash into barbed wire, and stampeding horses in a manner that leaves foals behind is unconscionable."
To read the letter in its entirety, click below:
The incidents cited by the Campaign as violations include:
- Flying dangerously close to terrified wild horses.
- Driving wild horses along barbed wire fence lines, causing many to crash through the barbed wire fencing.
- Driving horses at a distance and speed that is causing young foals to fall behind and be separated from their mothers.
- Stampeding horses with previous injuries such as blindness and leg deformities for miles at strenuous speeds.
- Roping a 2-year-old stallion to capture him and get him into the trap.
2News called the BLM of Utah's office and left voice messages to the communications director to comment on the Campaign's claims. The call was returned at 6:10 p.m. with advisement that an official statement would be made on the issue.
The statement was received Thursday, 6:34 p.m. It stated:
The Bible Springs Complex and Sulphur HMA gather, which was necessary to conserve range health and address other issues, concluded on Aug. 8. The BLM takes seriously our commitment to ensure gather operations are conducted in a safe and humane manner. During a helicopter-assisted gather at the site on Aug. 6, fewer than a dozen wild horses escaped capture and some briefly became entangled in a fence. The horses easily extracted themselves, and no serious injuries were observed. The fence, which was in place prior to the gather, was appropriately flagged to increase visibility to the horses. The BLM continues to adhere to our principles of compassion and concern for the animals we manage, while at the same time continuously working to improve operations where possible. No equine deaths occurred as a result of gather operations. Four horses in poor health were humanely euthanized for pre-existing injuries and conditions that occurred prior to the gather.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) hosted a Wild Horse Unity Roundtable on August 1. The roundtable was attended by experts and stakeholders to discuss the management of wild horses.
The wild horse and burro population in Utah is estimated at 5,000, with claims many horses are sickly and starving. The state's management plan is set for a population of 2,500.
The Campaign said in its letter wild horses rounded up in southern Utah are coming in at a Body Condition Score of 5 – the highest and healthiest for a wild horse, dispelling the claim by Stewart that wild horses are suffering from massive overpopulation and starvation, the news release stated.
Stewart released the following statement:
I, too, believe these roundups should be conducted in the most humane way possible. However, to suggest there isn’t an overpopulation issue simply flies in the face of the facts. The current number of horses on the range is over 80,000. The Appropriate Management Level (AML), set by the BLM, is just 26,690. The desert range simply cannot handle an additional 50,000 horses. Which is why I am continuing my bipartisan efforts to address the issue.