A well-known horse advocate racking up long miles to watch the Jackson Mountain emergency muster says the roundup is needed, but lays the blame on the Bureau of Land Management’s earlier inaction.
The roundup was moved forward a month by the bureau in Nevada because of drought conditions and the declining condition of the wild horses. That means the roundup is occurring during the foaling season.
Eleven wild horse advocacy groups have spoken against the muster, pointing to the risk of late-term mares aborting foals through the stress of the roundup. They have also voiced concerns at the risks of running foals under such circumstances.
However, Leigh, the founder of Wild Horse Education, told Horsetalk: “This roundup has to happen now. The animals are in a degraded state because the BLM allowed the situation to deteriorate to an emergency situation.
Laura Leigh: ‘Watching these babies run is horrifying’
“It is absolutely foaling season but something needs to be done now or we will have a massive die-off like we had in 2007 on this range.”
Leigh, who shut down a roundup last year when the pilot appeared to hit a horse with a chopper, and took successful court action against the bureau over public access to roundups, says the muster is occurring in the peak foaling season because the bureau failed to take proactive measures to address the situation.
That resulted in the current emergency muster, which she describes as an extremely dangerous operation.
The impending situation was not a surprise, Leigh said.
“BLM noted these issues in March. The area is compromised due to years of over-grazing and a lack of precipitation last winter.
“The wild horses on the range demonstrate body condition that could lead to the same disaster we saw in the region in 2007. Animals died off in high numbers due to similar conditions.”
Wild Horse Education co-director Leslie Peeples said: “This operation is an outrage no matter how you look at it.
“BLM failed to address the issues, creating a horrible situation and the chosen cure is a horrible one.”
After negotiations with the bureau failed to address the situation and stop the helicopter stampede, a standard for humane treatment was placed in the Record of Decision for the roundup issued by the agency.
Leigh said: “We asked for specific parameters and they were not granted. However, for the first time BLM felt the concept was important enough to put it in writing.”
Leigh has been observing the removal operation since it began and was continuing to attempt to work with the bureau to try to attain a compromise.
“I have seen some minor improvements,” Leigh said, “but there are some major issues that need to be addressed.
“Running these tiny babies is an outrage. It is a situation that requires the utmost care and not simply improvements to normal operation. These animals are compromised. These babies are facing permanent damage from being stampeded by helicopter. This agency is tasked with protecting these animals and it has failed in its duty on so many levels.”
An active case sits in Reno Federal Court that shut down roundup because of alleged inhumane care last summer. This issue is ongoing in the courts and can be carried forward if conduct warrants such action, Leigh said.