“Watching these babies run is horrifying”

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A young foal tries to keep up with its mother as its herd is rounded up.
A young foal tries to keep up with its mother as its herd is rounded up.

Federal authorities should have acted long ago to avert the need for an emergency muster in Nevada’s drought-stricken Jackson Mountains, wild horse advocate Laura Leigh says.

Leigh is monitoring the emergency roundup, which she says is essential to avert the die-off of wild horses that occurred in the same area in 2007.

However, she says the Bureau of Land Management should have acted much earlier to avert the decline in the condition of the horses and the need for an emergency roundup.

The roundup started on June 8, about a month earlier than scheduled amid fears the horses would die through a lack of forage and water. However, the timing puts it at the peak of the foaling season, and horse advocacy groups have voiced concerns that heavily pregnant mares that are forced to run could abort their foals.

They have also voiced concerns about the running of new foals and the potential risk of injury and death.

Leigh, the founder of Wild Horse Education, says the bureau should have acted far sooner to avert the need for an emergency roundup in the drought-hit southern portion of the herd range.

“About two years ago they should have officially restricted livestock use, not just in the southern part, but in the northern part as well.”

This, she said, would have encouraged the horses to move north, where forage was more plentiful.

She said the bureau had been hauling water to the horses, but should have erected the panels used in bait traps at the same time to get the horses used to them.

Had it done so, bureau contractors could have started bait-trapping the horses from last month – a far better way of capturing pregnant mares and foals, she said.

The bureau is targeting about 630 of the 930 or so horses on the range, in an operation likely to take a fortnight.

Leigh, who calls Nevada home but spends much of her time living out of her vehicle while travelling the western rangelands to monitor roundups, says the Jackson Mountains had been overgrazed, which she said was a direct result of failing to restrict livestock access.

“It’s not just about the water,” she said. “It’s about forage.”

Leigh, currently staying in a hotel in Winnemucca, faces a two-hour drive each day to reach the current muster site. This drive will increase in coming days as the muster moves further north.

Leigh says she arrives at the Winnemucca district office at 5am each day and is escorted in to watch the day’s roundup activity. She watches the action from a designated area, with a bureau public affairs officer and ranger present.

Sometimes, she can be a mile from operations, requiring the use of a powerful telephoto lens.

Leigh describes a helicopter muster as a horrible cure for the problem.

“Watching these babies run is horrifying,” she said.

To date, 107 horses have been gathered and three have died. The three are listed as dying from pre-existing conditions, but Leigh said she did not concur.

Leigh said the bureau’s Winnemucca district manager, Gene Seidlitz, will be travelling into the muster zone tomorrow. She said it would provide an opportunity to discuss operational issues in a bid to ensure the roundup continued as safely as possible.

She hopes that arrangements can be made to deal with safety and welfare issues daily as they arose.

 

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15 thoughts on ““Watching these babies run is horrifying”

  • June 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm
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    What an absurd article. Whats the matter, no horses dying, no babies injured or orphaned? GThere was a mare that fell but must not have been horrible enough to get the angst she needs. She says she spent all the time before the gather working with them to take it easy on this roundup. Seems they are doing that and doing a very good job at it. Horses look pretty good in the trap. the horses have to come off the range, the land can’t take it anymore. When will anyone do anthing right by Leigh and her followers. They are beginning to look like a bunch of backseat drivers. Maybe she needs to get a job and know what its like to show up, not at her leisure, deciding which HMA she is going to park it this week. Then maybe she’d have more respect for the people out there exposing their butts to the world doing what they know is best for the horses and the land. Doesn’t matter why it is that way now, it is. We have to get the horses adopted, rejuvenate the land and horses back on the HMA. Fact is no matter how many get gathered, there will be some so smart, they will never be found and come next year or the next bands will be sighted. Oh, you cannot feed or water wild horses on their HMAs, or they are no longer wild.

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    • June 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm
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      Janet I have watched you comment negatively on Leigh every article. Do you work for BLM? Leigh has had 5 wins in two years. I think the Judges know more than you.
      beth

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  • June 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm
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    THREE horses have died already in just TWO days??? This is completely UNACCEPTABLE!! Gene….get your butt in there, be a man, be a decent human being and fix this horrifying screw up!!

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    • June 13, 2012 at 6:56 am
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      There HAS to be another way!!!! The trauma these horses are going through is CRUEL, UNUSUAL AND UNNECESSARY!!!!!

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  • June 12, 2012 at 11:51 pm
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    One death is very unacceptable. Poor planing on the part of agency who is supposed to abide by humane care standards clearly failed in that task. Cattle should have been removed and The mustangs and their offspring should not have to take a back seat to this agency’s clear lack of concern.
    If they were so concerned about the welfare of the foals they were chasing via Sun-J they should have grounded the pilot.
    A camera placed on the vehicle during each gather is a must and is of public record to cover both front’s for advocates and agency.
    At this point the P.R. cant keep up with pace of recording and responding to inhumane treatment of the mustangs.
    This event was totally avoidable and show’s agency’s complacent attitude toward cattle their job’s.
    Their not doing it right! The BLM still does not get it! The FAA should also be involved for the pilot is clearly demonstrating fly improper for the terrain and condition’s of the horses in his path.
    He should go back to flight school or have a veterinarian fly with him to tell him to back off. Instead it’s peddle to the throttle.

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  • June 13, 2012 at 9:00 am
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    Laura, can’t you have them set up water stations along the way, just enough to cool the horses down, until they start running the hell out of them again? it would give the foals a chance to catch up.Or is that asking to much of their precious time? its a simple enough request to ask and should not be too much skin off their noses?

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  • June 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm
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    If too many cattle were allowed to graze on the Jackson Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) and if they were left on the range too long then that is mismanagement of cattle within the HMA. If animals are to be removed from the range it should be the cattle, not the wild horses. The HMAs were established to provide our few remaining wild horse herds a safe and protected home. This round up needs to stop, the horses captured need to be returned to their home and the cattle need to be removed. The funds that have been set aside to remove the wild horses should be diverted to ensure the wild horses have sufficient food and water to get them through the drought. All remaining funds need to be used to rehabilitate the damage done to the range by the cattle. If the cattle cannot be grazed responsibly an HMA, and without negative impact to the wild horses, then they need to be banned from the HMA.

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  • June 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm
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    Oh this just breaks my heart – why do animals have to suffer through government bad management?

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  • June 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm
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    The pre-existing condition is the freaking HELL-icopter, there’s no doubt it’s what killed those horses. Chasing down stressed horses is animal abuse, something the Wild Horse & Burro program are quite familiar with.

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  • June 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm
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    Oh for goodness’ sake, all of you. I am a horse lover, but I also must say that I’m afriad while you would be content to squabble about whose fault this is, I have to take a hard stance and say “take a hard line” and do something before the feed situation gets worse. If you still disagree with the muster, but can say so with a calm attitude, then go for it, but if you have to SCREAM!!! AND SHOUT ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU HATE IT!!!!! Then really, you’re not portraying a reasonable argument at all and convincing no one.

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    • June 17, 2012 at 7:46 am
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      Caitlyn,
      Where in the article are people screaming? It sounds like they are trig very hard to be heard without screaming and are being ignored.
      The BLM keeps putting in writing that they are doing one thing and making promises but all they do is the same “ignore” anything that asks for change. I am surprised there is not more screaming.
      beth

      Reply

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