BLM aerial view of one of the reservoirs in the Tuscarora Wild Horse Gather area in Nevada. The area is about 80 miles northwest of Elko, Nevada, and encompasses more than 482,000 acres of public and private lands in north-central Nevada.
The Internet is humming today with reports of the death of seven horses during the latest U.S. Government's Bureau of Land Management roundup of horses in Nevada. As a result of the condition of the horses and their bodies' life-threatening reaction to plentiful water at the holding pens, the BLM has halted the gather. Printed here are extracts from today's lengthy official report from the BLM, which may be disturbing for you to read. (BLM text will appear in brown type.)
The Bureau of Land Management announced today that it is temporarily suspending the Tuscarora wild horse gather operations in Elko County, Nevada, after BLM staff determined that gathered horses were dehydrated after seven gathered wild horses died from dehydration-related complications because of insufficient water in the area.
The BLM also announced that the Tuscarora gather operations, aimed at removing horses from overpopulated herds, will remain on hold until an assessment has been completed to determine how to best proceed in light of the current condition of these horses.
"Our agency is committed to the humane treatment of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range," BLM Director Bob Abbey said. "Toward that end, I am suspending further Tuscarora gather operations until the situation concerning the initial stage of the Tuscarora gather is analyzed and thoroughly understood, and the options for minimizing mortality of horses weakened by dehydration can be assessed."
The BLM initiated gather operations at 6:30 a.m., Saturday, July 10. By 9 a.m., the BLM contractor had gathered 228 wild horses.
On arrival it was noted the horses were "drawn up," or lacking fill from water. They were, however, generally in good body condition with most scoring 4 to 5 on what is known as the Henneke body condition scale. The horses were provided with hay and water through the afternoon and evening. One horse was euthanized shortly after being gathered due to a fractured leg that occurred in the temporary holding corrals.
The morning of July 11, four horses were found dead in the pens and several horses were exhibiting signs of colic and brain swelling which was later attributed to water starvation/dehydration and subsequent water intoxication. Gather operations were stopped at that point, and BLM staff, specialists, the gather contractor and the on-site U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian began treating the horses.
So far, seven horses have died from complications related to water starvation/dehydration or subsequent water intoxication. It was determined this was a direct result of a lack of water in the immediate areas occupied by the horses. The BLM brought in extra water, tank trucks and troughs to the temporary holding site to ensure that all gathered animals have ample water available. Electrolytes were provided in each pen and affected animals were examined and treated as indicated by the veterinarian on site.
The private contractor conducted an aerial flyover of the immediate area Sunday morning, July 11, and located two large bands of wild horses. Both of these bands are presently at risk of mortality from dehydration if they do not reach other water sources. The BLM is unable to bring water into this area because the area is not readily accessible by road. The BLM will carefully monitor the two bands of horses during the next few days to determine whether they are independently moving to other water sources or can be encouraged to reach such waters on their own.
The BLM will also continue to provide food, water and veterinary care for the animals in the on-site temporary holding corrals.
In other wild horse news, private buyers staged an emergency rescue at a horse auction on Friday and purchased 172 wild horses that were under the jurisdiction of the State of Nevada rather than the BLM. The horses were rounded up from privately-owned land and were not protected by BLM policy, which prohibits federally-protected mustangs from being sold for slaughter.
It is believed that the horses would have been sold for slaughter. Investors in the ambitious project included former racehorse owner Madeleine Pickens of Texas and Ellie Phipps Price, owner of Sand Hill Durell Vineyards in Sonoma, California. The group Lifesavers, led by Jill Starr, organized and executed the buying of the horses.
Pickens will be a guest on CNN tomorrow night (Tuesday, July 13) to discuss the plight of wild horses in the American West with Jane Velez Mitchell.