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Animal advocates call for changes to wild horse wrangling after Nevada roundup deaths

Wild Horse Education, an animal advocacy group, is calling for changes to wild horse wrangling operations.
Posted at 9:46 AM, Jul 22, 2023

An animal advocacy group is calling for changes to the federal government’s wild horse wrangling operations after a roundup in Nevada left multiple stallions, mares and foals injured or dead.

Wild Horse Education wants the use of helicopters to corral the horses to be outlawed and released video it said shows wild horses running from US Bureau of Land Management helicopters during the roundup.

One video also shows what the group describes as a mare ending up with a broken neck after it is chased by a helicopter in extreme heat. The video shows the mare’s head jerking suddenly to the side as it is corralled, followed by the animal flailing and eventually unable to stand.

Eleven wild horses have died since the operation in Nevada’s Antelope Valley Complex began this month, the nonprofit organization said.

“Two mares have suffered broken necks, one mare was killed because she was blind in one eye, a stallion suffered a catastrophic compound fracture of his rear leg, four foals have died, a stallion broke his neck during loading into a semi-truck to ship to short-term holding,” Wild Horse Education said Tuesday. Four foals were orphaned and taken into foster care, it added.

The Bureau of Land Management told CNN there have been eight horse deaths, as of July 19, related to its “gather” operations. That’s less than one percent of the total number or horses wrangled, bureau spokesperson Rita Henderson said. “There have been an additional four animals that were humanely euthanized as an act of mercy due to pre-existing conditions,” Henderson added.

The bureau’s Elko District began two gathers in the Antelope Complex on July 9 and said it plans to gather and remove up to 3,107 excess wild horses. “The purpose of the gather is to prevent undue or unnecessary degradation of the public lands associated with excess wild horses and to restore a thriving natural ecological balance,” the bureau’s website states. The removed horses are put up for adoption or placed in off-range pastures, the bureau said.

The use of helicopters in wrangling operations has also drawn criticism from lawmakers, including Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, who introduced legislation to end the practice.

“Nevada is home to more wild horses than any other state in our country. Tragically, these animals are subjected to taxpayer-funded helicopter roundups and removals that are all too often costly, ineffective, and inhumane,” Titus said in a statement in May.

“Scientific research has shown that more humane and cost-effective alternatives, like fertility control, are equally effective in controlling equine populations,” the statement said.

The bureau only uses helicopters during the foaling season that runs through the end of June in an “approved emergency situation,” Henderson said. “Prior to the use of helicopters, riders on horseback were used to gather wild horses and burros, which often resulted in more injuries and exhaustion for the animals,” she added.