166 wild horses in Nevada given their freedom

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Fish Creek stallions are returned to their home range. Photo: Laura Leigh/Wild Horse Education
Fish Creek stallions are returned to their home range. Photo: Laura Leigh/Wild Horse Education

Hooves thundered and dust flew today as 166 wild horses were returned to their home range in Nevada.

The horses were among the 432 captured in February by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from the 230,000-acre Fish Creek Herd Management Area in Eureka.

Authorities had intended to treat 102 mares with a long-acting birth control agent and release them back into the area along with 84 stallions.

However, before the horses could be released, Eureka County commissioners and local ranchers filed a legal challenge with the Interior Board of Land Appeals to stop their return.

They asserted that the federal government had no authority to release the horses, and demanded even more removals.

Two wild horse advocacy groups, Return to Freedom and Wild Horse Education, were granted status to intervene on behalf of the BLM’s management plan.

The board has now ruled against the county’s request to hold the wild horses in the facility until the underlying claim is decided. The authority of the BLM to return the wild horses has now been affirmed. Arguments in the case continue on the underlying claims.

Today, trucks and trailers rolled on to the range and the 166 wild horses ran free once more.

The advocacy groups said 183 horses had originally been trucked to holding facilities costing $US6335 a week in holding fees, which now total more than $US25,000. They said five mares died in holding and 12 gave birth. The mares and foals will be released at a later date.

Return to Freedom, which runs a national wild horse conservation and advocacy organization, operates a large sanctuary in Lompoc, California with nearly 400 formerly wild horses.

Its president, Neda DeMayo, said the method of fertility control employed at Fish Creek had been used by the sanctuary for more than 15 years.

She said she was thrilled over the return of the Fish Creek horses to their home range. “This is a good day!”

She continued: “Now is the time to move forward with innovative management that makes sense, keeping wild horses on their range and saving millions of tax dollars in the long term.

“It is time for a new direction, instead of wasting time and money obstructing positive solutions that will benefit the horses, wildlife, ranchers and the range.”

Wild Horse Education president Laura Leigh witnessed the entire roundup, saw the horses in holding, and was present at the release.

“I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of relief,” she said.

“The real work begins as this plan moves forward to create sound management over the next decade. The first step toward changing outdated habits can be the hardest. Today was one heck of a ‘leap’ toward kicking those bad habits into the past where they belong.”

Leigh, who monitors wild horses roundups across the west, has documented these particular wild horses for years, including their capture and captivity.

A special stallion named Sarge was one of the stallions released back to the range. More than 5000 people signed a letter to use in the fight to return Sarge and the other Fish Creek horses.

“I saw Sarge in the pen at the facility and promised him we would get him free,” said a tearful Leigh.

“Today we fulfilled that promise. I know there is a lot of work ahead but I am going to let myself celebrate tonight. I will never forget this true return to freedom.”

26 thoughts on “166 wild horses in Nevada given their freedom

    • April 9, 2015 at 10:37 am
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      Be sure and take the tour for the 250+ horses deemed excess so these FEW could be released. All of them pzp’d (except the stallions for those who don’t know). What of the ones who have disappeared into the void now. Thank Nations/Leigh and their Pilot Project.

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  • April 9, 2015 at 3:31 am
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    I am so happy about this and celebrate their return to their home. And I pray releases will continue and roundups will stop.

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  • April 9, 2015 at 3:33 am
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    Thank you! and it’s about time the wild horses got some justice! But I do believe there is always going to be a battle over their rights. Please keep fighting for them! They don’t deserve to be treated as a statistic!

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  • April 9, 2015 at 4:10 am
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    thank you for your hard work keep it up

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  • April 9, 2015 at 4:47 am
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    This article does not state the huge controversy amongst the advocates for the protection of the wild horses. The controversy is over the birth control the mares that were returned were injected with. It is fine that one of the persons quoted in this article uses this injection (made of pena zellucida from the ovaries of slaughtered pigs and emulsified in a solution meant to boost the antigen properties) on her own privately owned sanctuary horses. She is thus, responsible for the care the mares and the foals will need in the future. But to say this birth control is safe to use on wild horses (AND burros if HSUS has anything to say about it) is just outrageous. This sanctuary owner does not own the wild horses and burros. The American citizen does. The Act guarantees the wild horses and burros land to live on free of harassment (which capturing is), branding (each mare dosed is branded with two 4-inch letters on their butt), and some die during and after the capture. As here, 5 mares died after roundup. This article is another bit of the lying and deceit media carries on to advance their own agenda of donator funding. STOP PZP. STOP roundups. Follow the Act as it was meant to be.

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    • April 9, 2015 at 9:47 am
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      “The Act” (if you are referring to the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971) provides no guarantee of a life “free of harassment,” but rather provides for the dedication of land, at the discretion of BLM and State Departments of Wildlife, for horses to share with other interests. If specifically provides for their removal and elimination by efficient and humane means when they become overpopulated, left also to the discretion of BLM. And, with man left as the sole remaining native and effective predator of the horse, this overpopulation is bound to occur. We may eliminate excess horses as intended, we may remove and stockpile at costs exceeding $70 million per year, or we may treat with birth control. To refuse all of these options is to allow horses to consume the resources required by native wildlife and to continue the degradation of the western high desert ecosystem. Is that your “solution”?

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      • April 10, 2015 at 1:42 am
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        The BLM has no idea of the actual number of wild horses on public land. The report issued by the National Academy of Sciences requested by the BLM recommended that the BLM provide an accurate account of the number of wild horses on public land. Thus, no one can state that there is an overpopulation of wild horses on public land without an accurate number of wild horses.

        This report also indicated with convincing evidence that the BLM is contributing to the increased birth rate by the wild horses by stampeding the horses using their horrific practice of helicopter roundups.

        The BLM has REMOVED over 19 million acres of public land from the wild horses without public knowledge. The land just “disappeared.” The BLM is NOT abiding by the 1971 Free-roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act when the BLM intentionally and deceptively remove millions of acres of public land from wild horses and they continue to reduce appropriate management levels (AMLs) and herd management areas (HMA).

        The wild horses have lived off of the land for centuries and have done well WITHOUT the BLM. It is the BLM that has allowed cattle at the rate of 1,000 cows to 1 wild horse on public land that has led to the destruction of the rangeland. It is the welfare ranchers that want the wild horses wiped out so they can have all of the public land they want for their cattle.

        The BLM needs to return all of the public land back to the wild horses. The wild horses will be in balance with the land by eliminating the permits to kill predators like the mountain lion and stop pandering to the ranchers.

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      • April 10, 2015 at 8:48 am
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        Are you advocating any particular direction? I thought the birth control used throws off horses’ natural cycles and can cause foals to be born in winter or under other conditions when their chance for survival is diminished. I thought the cattle ranchers had a lobbying advantage, not an environmental or moral one, because they outnumber any advocates for the horses, and the ranchers are motivated by their own need for profit. Is there an answer that will meet everyone’s approval?

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    • April 9, 2015 at 12:39 pm
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      Thank you for your comment! I agree!

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  • April 9, 2015 at 6:47 am
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    More please. Cattlemen need to pay for the suffering and killing of our heritage horses.

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  • April 9, 2015 at 7:11 am
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    Thank you for all the hard work you have done to get the wild horses released. Rich ranchers can just step off! Leave them alone! Their cows are much more damaging to the range than the horses…Thank you again.

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    • April 9, 2015 at 10:00 am
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      Horses and cattle are both very destructive to our native wildlife. That cattle are more responsible than horses by merit of their greater numbers goes without saying. But, if the damage done by cattle is the excuse used to permit even more damage done by horses, then this is poor reasoning. Better to reduce or eliminate both in order to preserve our Wester plant and animal species.

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      • April 10, 2015 at 8:53 am
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        ‘Hoofed browsers’ are a part of the environment. Hoofed browsers are being reintroduced to open lands across the US (think bison) as soon as enough open land is accumulated for them. The current problem is that there are too many cattle on the range for the environment to sustain a balance. The horses do not tip the scale. Their relatively small numbers are appropriate to nature, just not to cattlemen who want all the government land for themselves.

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      • April 15, 2015 at 2:28 am
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        This is not the way to remove horses.. how DARE YOU say (this is a humane thing the way their removing horses. I have seen the round ups and the holding pens and the slaughter. There is nothing humane about it. You lie! Take a look at ANY video of the slaughterhouses and tell me that’s humane! There is obviously something wrong with your mind or your soul. Either you’re stupid ir you’re deceitful. And no one should listen to anything you say.

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  • April 9, 2015 at 7:14 am
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    5 Mares died in holding. They should never have been rounded up. BLM and ranchers should be ashamed of killing 5 mares. There is obviously something very Wrong with how they are treated if they died. They would not have died if left on their land. A total travesty! Shame on anyone and everyone who took part in any way!!!!!!!!!!!

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    • April 9, 2015 at 10:33 am
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      They were rounded up so they could be pzp’d. The Pilot Project authored by Laura Leigh and Jeanne Nations.

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  • April 9, 2015 at 11:37 am
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    This is great news!!! Thank you for all the hard work that you are doing for these horses. What is wrong with these ranchers anyway?? Do they want every last horse to be stuck in a holding pen for the rest of their lives??? The BLM needs to be dis-banned. They are not doing a good job of managing these horses!!!

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  • April 9, 2015 at 8:29 pm
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    Thank you to everyone who made this possible, for the horses, may others be given the same freedom and may these horrid roundups come to an end.

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  • April 9, 2015 at 9:51 pm
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    That is wonderful they got released. It still makes me mad that they are PZP’d. It’s not natural for a mare to continue to come in heat & cause the stallions to be ever on the alert. They need to leave the wild horses alone & let them be just what they are. Majestic, magnificent, creatures roaming the west wild & free.

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  • April 10, 2015 at 2:33 am
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    “Jan Windsong”(above) – aka Janet Schultz – and her crew are once again loading these replies with her anti-PZP/Nations/Leigh/Wild Horse Education/Return to Freedom nonstop bashing. When will she learn she is doing real damage to the wild horses and real advocates by bringing false, misleading and severely biased information to the public? I am just glad some groups are starting to work together with real science and the BLM. Like it or not, BLM manages our mustangs and we need to effectively change how they do that. These groups seem to be doing all that they can to work within existing parameters and keep these wild ones where they belong – in the wild. Thank you to DeMayo and Leigh and all the people who make it possible for every single wild horse to be returned to the wild.

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  • April 10, 2015 at 3:52 am
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    Did anyone video the release? I’m sure someone did. Please show it if you had.
    I’m so happy about this, it made me cry.
    I guess there’s hope out there after all.
    God Bless everyone that helped make this happened.
    Now we need to save the rest of them.
    Keep up the hard work.

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  • April 12, 2015 at 6:49 am
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    The wild horse issue is complex. Not a one answer solves everything. Stewartlands seems knowledgeable and reasonable in replies. It is important to have sufficient data on all aspects of the issue to create possible sustainable solutions. BLM has a huge and controversial responsibility in caring for our public lands and the life it sustains. Perhaps, like our tax laws, the laws protecting the wild horses as symbols of the freedom we hold dear, need to be changed.

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