$1 wild horses: Advocates rally to help save California’s mustangs

A contractor’s helicopter drives wild horses into the trap at Devils Garden during a 2016 roundup. 
A contractor’s helicopter drives wild horses into the trap at Devils Garden during a 2016 roundup. © Steve Paige / RTF

A wild horse sanctuary is trying to save some 300 mustangs from unrestricted sale for as little as $1 each by arranging adoptive homes.

The action is in response to the US Forest Service’s helicopter roundup of 1000 horses at the Devils Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory at Modoc National Forest near Alturas, California. It is the state’s largest wild horse herd.

The captured wild horses will be put up for sale with limitation for 60 days after being made ready for placement. Limitations include prohibiting the purchase of wild horses for human consumption.

But after that 60-day period, the Forest Service plans to sell the remaining wild horses without restrictions, for as little as $1 each.

Wild horses are separated from their family bands and herds and sorted by age and gender, with the older horses – including pregnant mares – in greatest jeopardy of being sold to kill buyers who will transport them to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.

California-based Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation has joined with other wild horse advocates, the public, and federal and state lawmakers to urge the Forest Service to abandon its sale plans that open the door to the slaughter pipeline. It is rallying landowners willing to provide a safe home for wild horses, provide transportation, or make donations to support rescue efforts should the Forest Service follow through with its plan for the unrestricted sale of horses aged 10 and older, starting in January.

“Capturing wild horses just before the onset of winter increases the risk to the most vulnerable animals,” said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom, which operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary.

“Having survived being chased over extremely rocky ground by a helicopter, the oldest horses will now be placed in unsheltered holding corrals in harsh weather at a time when feed is at its most expensive. Placing hundreds of horses in good homes in just 60 days is even more difficult at this time of year.”

Past polls have found about 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter. In 1998, Californians passed a ballot measure, Prop. 6, barring horse slaughter in the state, sale of horse meat for human consumption and transportation of horses out of the state for purposes of slaughter.

Captured wild horses under the age of nine are being transported to Bureau of Land Management corrals in Susanville, California, where they will be offered for adoption. Forest Service officials have said that arrangements have been made for BLM to keep captured wild horses there for one year, but no longer, possibly placing them in jeopardy of eventually being sold to slaughter without restrictions where they could also end up in the slaughter pipeline.

The Forest Service is attempting remove more than quarter of the wild horses in California’s last large herd after Congress, in its Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations package, specifically prohibited the sale without limitation of wild horses and burros by the BLM but not by the Forest Service.

“The Forest Service created this situation by not investing in safe, proven and humane fertility control for mares,” DeMayo said.

“The very least the agency could do is reduce the number of horses they plan to round up this year, stagger removals to better work with California’s horse community to find homes for captured horses, and begin an aggressive fertility control program at Devils Garden.

“In 2016, the Forest Service did create a placement committee for the Devils Garden wild horses that included advocates, ranchers, and community members. Rushing ahead with this large-scale roundup, implementing sales without restrictions undermines that effort and is a slap in the face of that committee. The agency is squandering the opportunity for collaboration and turning its back on one of California’s last herds when they could have begun a fertility control program years ago.”

Return to Freedom urges the public and lawmakers to continue pressuring the agency to stop the plan.  At the same time, wild horse advocates and the horse-loving public should begin preparing to help with solutions.

More information for those who can provide a home to two or more wild horses, or offer transportation, or a donation to support the rescue effort.



Latest research and information from the horse world.

9 thoughts on “$1 wild horses: Advocates rally to help save California’s mustangs

  • October 25, 2018 at 7:13 am

    This is wrong in so many ways – leave them alone, stop stressing them out until they die.

  • October 25, 2018 at 8:38 am

    These horses are beautiful and wild, and part of our heritage. Leave them alone!

  • October 25, 2018 at 8:46 am

    American wildlife is under siege by the current Administration and they must be stopped!

  • October 25, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Of all the wrongs in the world, this is the worst. Let them be!

  • October 25, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    I add my voice to the many that have already spoken, for so many years, to ask WHY this is happening and WHO is behind it. The death at the slaughterhouse is horrific and no living thing should have to experience it. Please listen to the voices that know that ALL life matters and has a much more important reason for some compassion and respect for life.

  • October 25, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    This is the saddest days of my life knowing these roundups are occurring they deserve so much better God help us all

  • October 25, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    Despicable conduct by the BLM . Criminal and cruel. I am ashamed to say I am a California resident.

  • October 26, 2018 at 3:48 am

    Use PZP. It is birth control that works. The BLM, forest dept need to understand how to deal with the horses, not round them up to be killed or sell to people who will kill them. They belong here.

  • October 28, 2018 at 3:32 pm



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