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Bureau gathers 388 horses in emergency muster

July 19, 2010

by Neil Clarkson

United States authorities have successfully mustered 388 wild horses from a herd area where it says the animals are at risk of dying through lack of water.

A dried up water hole in the Owyhee area.
Contractors working for the Bureau of Land Management have brought the horses out of the Owyhee herd management area in Nevada in an operation it is labelling an emergency gather.

The bureau began the muster a week ago, but postponed it a day later after the deaths the following day of four horses from complications arising from dehydration.

Since then, the death toll from dehydration-related complications from the initial muster has risen to 12. A 13th died from injuries suffered in a pen accident.

An aerial survey by the bureau last Tuesday revealed two main herds at threat of dehydration in the Owyhee area.

One herd at Dry Creek group comprised about 125 wild horses and another group at Star Ridge comprised about 400 animals.

The bureau succeeded in having a temporary restraining order lifted on Friday, citing the dangerous dry conditions on the range, and resumed operations.

It managed to gather 54 horses on Friday afternoon, 192 on Saturday, and 142 as of noon on Sunday.

The number of deaths in the operation has climbed to 18 in total.

One death since Friday - that of a foal - was a result of complications from dehydration. Three others were euthanized due to blindness (in a stallion with broken teeth estimated to be aged over 20) and leg deformities in foals.

The 18th death was as a result of neck injuries suffered in a holding pen.

The bureau said the first group of horses brought in on Sunday comprised 77 horses from the Star Ridge area.

"The animals are in very poor condition as a result from water starvation/dehydration-related complications," a spokeswoman said.

They were receiving food, water and veterinarian care from bureau staff, specialists and the on-site US Department of Agriculture veterinarian.

The contractor then brought in a second group of 65 horses from the Chimney Creek area at around noon. This group of animals appeared to be in better condition than expected.

The 192 wild horses gathered on Saturday were reported to be stable, which may indicate they were drinking from the water the bureau hauled into temporary troughs and a reservoir in the area.

The bureau said it had hauled more than 30,000 gallons of water into the region in the last week.

It said it had been co-ordinating with local ranchers who own the water rights and who are allowing the bureau to use their sources to provide water to the horses.

The ranchers had also opened gates to allow horses access to water, it said. There are no cattle within this immediate area, the bureau added.

It was conducting daily fixed-wing aerial reconnaissance to find the bands of horses and document the on-ground conditions.

"Bureau specialists have reported seeing some horses down in certain areas within the Owyhee herd management area," the spokeswoman said.

"For horses that are already down and unable to be trailered and are not responding to the helicopter, the bureau will attempt to humanely euthanise those animals from the ground ..."



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