Two helicopter musters of wild horses are set to begin in Nevada because of drought conditions in two designated herd management areas (HMAs).
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is scheduled to begin the roundups within the Fish Lake Valley and Gold Mountain Herd Management Areas (HMAs) on or about August 19.
The agency intends to relocate 180 wild horses it says are threatened by severe drought to off-range facilities.
The bureau will use the services of a gather contractor which uses a helicopter to locate and guide wild horses toward a set of corrals.
“During the gather it is anticipated that as an act of mercy, some animals with a poor prognosis for survival may need to be humanely euthanized to end their suffering,” the bureau said in a statement.
“Without these actions, it is highly likely that more animals, particularly mares and foals, would suffer over time and die if left on the range.”
The bureau’s Nevada state director, Amy Lueders, said: “This is a sad situation all the way around. We have done our best to help these horses but the combination of no forage and limited water has led to wild horses that simply need more help.”
The bureau said drought conditions had persisted throughout Nevada since 2012.
It said it had been closely monitoring drought conditions within the two areas, and associated grazing allotments, since last year.
“Although some rainfall has occurred, the moisture has been insufficient to break the drought, which has left extremely limited amounts of water and forage in the area,” the bureau said.
“Henneke Body Condition Scores within the Fish Lake Valley and Gold Mountain HMAs range from poor (1.5) to moderately thin (4). Wild horses with a Henneke Body Condition Score of 2 or less are at risk of death if they remain on the range, given the current drought conditions and lack of resources.”
The Gold Mountain area is about three miles south of Gold Point, in southwestern Nevada, and encompasses about 100,000 acres of primarily BLM land. The appropriate management level for Gold Mountain is no wild horses and 78 burros. The estimated wild horse population within the Gold Mountain HMA is 33 horses and 1 mule.
Monitoring shows that the only known perennial water source within the area is nearly dry, and has completely dried in previous years, resulting in horse deaths. Additionally, because horses are reliant on a single water source, they are unable to venture far from that water. Horses removed from the area will be transported to the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison.
The Fish Lake Valley area is just northwest of Dyer, in western Nevada, and encompasses about 70,000 acres of primarily BLM land. The appropriate management level for the area is currently 54 wild horses. The estimated wild horse population within Fish Lake Valley HMA is 229.
The bureau said monitoring showed that vegetation growth was extremely limited within the area. Additionally, areas lower in elevation have been denuded of nearly all vegetation.
“Lack of vegetation is not only a problem for the wild horses, but there is occupied Bi-State Sage-grouse (BLM Sensitive Species, and Endangered Species Act Candidate Species) habitat within Fish Lake Valley HMA, with two known active leks.
“Additionally, public safety issues exist as wild horses often trail across highways to access limited water sources and foraging areas.”
Horses will be transported to the Ridgecrest Regional Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Ridgecrest, California.
The BLM will offer public viewing opportunities during the gather operations.