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Horses face 'maze of fences' to find water

July 19, 2010

by Neil Clarkson

The wild horses reportedly at risk of dying from dehydration in the Owyhee herd management area have been unable to access water because of fences, a horse welfare group claims.

© Makendra Silverman / The Cloud Foundation
The Cloud Foundation argues that the emergency muster under way in the Owyhee herd management in Nevada has arisen because of fencing in the area.

"These treasured Tuscarora mustangs are forced to navigate a maze of livestock fences and closed gates in order to find water," foundation spokeswoman Anne Novak says.

"Miles of fencing prevent their free-roaming rights and ability to access water sites they've used for decades - if not centuries."

The foundation had warned before the muster began of the dangers of gathering horses in the heat of a Nevada summer.

Twelve of the initial 228 horses mustered from the area a week ago died from complications arising from dehydration.

"After the first day proved to be fatal and the roundup was placed on hold, bureau spin began to refer to the horses' situation on the range as an 'emergency'," Novak said.

Foundation director Ginger Kathrens said: "Why didn't the bureau know about the water situation before going in and running 228 horses - at least 5 per cent of them - to subsequent death?

"The public deserves answers, not excuses."

"Mustangs regularly travel distances farther than ten miles if allowed their free-roaming behaviour," Kathrens said.

"Distance or standard drought levels are not the issue. The real question is what is preventing these mustangs from using traditional perennial water sources?"

The foundation said carving up herd management areas with fences was unacceptable and prevented wild horse movement within their ranges set out by the Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burros Act.

"The bureau has reduced our wild horses to a labyrinth of cattle pastures and has no regard for their needs," Kathrens said.

The bureau, which has trucked in at least 20,000 gallons of water for the horses, has not commented specifically on access to natural water sources.

However, a veterinary report, dated July 11, by Dr Albert Kane, who performed necropsies on three of the horses that died in the initial muster, noted: "The history of this area is that water holes being used recently are drying up and horses were blocked from accessing a singular access point to a river that has historically been a watering point during dry conditions."



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