Wild horse advocates say sprinklers are simply not enough to provide relief to wild horses facing triple-digit temperatures at the Palomino Valley Center for wild horses, run by the Bureau of Land Management.
The Nevada center announced on June 28 that it had installed sprinklers in three of the large, outside wild horse pens and five mare-foal pens as a stop-gap measure to attempt to reduce heat levels inside the corrals.
It said staff would observe how the animals responded to the sprinklers, which could include avoidance, or chewing on and rubbing against the sprinklers, which are foreign structures to the animals.
But Protect Mustangs executive director Anne Novak said: “Putting sprinklers in a few pens appears to be a publicity stunt when what they really need to do is create shade for this emergency situation.
“The BLM is full of excuses of why they can’t create shade when they need to cowboy up and make it happen.”
However, the bureau said that shade shelters in corrals had been considered and evaluated many times.
It said wild horses and burros were accustomed to open environments and when their nutritional demands were met, they did well against the natural elements, including sun, rain, snow, and hot and cold temperatures.
“Open corrals with plenty of sunlight have proven to be the best way to minimize disease-causing organisms. The BLM’s open corrals enable the drying effects of the sun and wind to take effect.
“Due to the temperament of the animals, the social hierarchy between the animals, and their unfamiliarity with shelters, the BLM feels that corrals without shelters are the safest approach.
“Shelters could create a potential obstacle for animals running and playing in the corrals, and cause significant injuries. The BLM has wind breaks and/or shelters for sick animals.”
The bureau added that it was nevertheless planning to consult the scientific research community to inform future options on this issue.
However, Protect Mustangs say the horses are at risk due to a lack of shade.
The few sprinklers BLM installed this weekend are not only a waste of water during the drought, but appear to be a BLM publicity stunt to water down public outrage spreading across social media, the group said.
“Wild horses are not going to be cooled off by a random sprinkler in select pens. They might roll in the mud but most skidish wild horses will be scared of sprinklers.”
Eyewitness Taylor James, who photographs wild horses in the Reno area, says: “The pens are huge with so many wild horses trapped in the triple-digit heat.The only way to ensure their health in the pens is with shade.”
Novak comments: “If the government can send people into space then they can figure out how to shade the captive wild horses or just return them to the range. In the wild they can migrate to shady areas. In captivity it’s cruel to deny them shade.”