Twenty-three wild horses – including five wild foals – have tragically died as part of the 2022 Triple B Wild Horse roundup in Nevada, while more than 1,800 others have forever lost their freedom.
The roundup, which concluded Aug. 25, noted contractors had shipped 1,849 wild horses — including 623 stallions, 897 mares, and 329 foals — to off-site corrals and a federal adoption program known to result in wild horse slaughter.
Lady Freethinker sent an observer to the roundup — conducted by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and with a stated goal of removing 1,800 wild horses — when it started in mid-July.
Four horses died within the first four days of the roundup, in which a helicopter relentlessly pursued the iconic wild animals over mountainous terrain in heat that reached 95 degrees.
We predicted then that many more horses would suffer and die before the roundup’s end and sent our petition to stop cruel helicopter-assisted gathers, since signed by more than 44,000 people, to the BLM.
But the gather continued, with the BLM’s daily reports detailing a death toll of 23 wild horses — six of whom died specifically from the operation.
The first roundup-caused casualty was a 2-year-old mare who died unexpectedly, with a necropsy reporting compromised lungs, likely from respiratory pneumonia.
Three horses — a 3-year-old sorrel stallion, a 6-year-old Palomino stallion, and a 7-year old bay mare — all died after breaking their necks.
Two foals also tragically lost their lives due to ‘acute’ injuries, including a bay foal whose leg was broken when kicked by another horse and a sorrel foal who died unexpectedly from colic.
Three other foals also died because of the roundup, including a 4-month-old foal killed for a “pre-existing” fractured leg and including two youngsters with reported weak tendons — a birth condition which can resolve on its own without human intervention, according to veterinary experts.
The other defenseless horses killed — most likely by gunshot to the brain — due to what the BLM describes as “pre-existing” conditions:
- A 1-year-old filly for colic
- A 3-year-old mare reported as being blind
- A 3-year-old mare reportedly missing a right eye/blindness
- A 3-year-old mare killed for a club foot
- A 5-year-old sorrel mare for a broken front leg
- A 5-year-old bay stallion for swayback
- A 5-year-old bay mare for a fractured back
- A 7-year-old mare reportedly missing a left eye/blindness
- A 10-year-old sorrel mare for a club foot
- A 20-year-old stallion killed over a fractured leg
- A 20-year-old mare for severe tooth loss
- A 20-year-old mare unable to maintain a body score condition of 3
- A 20-year-old stallion unable to maintain a body score condition of 3
- A 20-year-old stallion with a reported missing left eye/blindness
The BLM initially declared that up to 100 mares would be treated with humane fertility vaccines — an alternative approach to removing horses from their home lands long touted by Lady Freethinker and other wild horse advocacy groups, including nonprofits Return to Freedom and the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC).
But at the end of the gather, the BLM reduced that by half – saying in late August that “up to 50” mares would be treated and released in the next 30 days.
As of Sept. 27 — more than a month after that announcement — the BLM’s gather reports showed the grand total of mares treated with fertility control was zero.
That reversal makes us — and other advocacy groups — question how seriously the BLM is taking the established science that these vaccines are effective over the long run and a much better alternative to cruelly gathering up wild horses.
“Return to Freedom strongly supports the use of reversible fertility control as a tool to halt roundups by slowing (not stopping) herd growth, but treating about 6 percent of the remaining mares will not make an appreciable difference in reducing the size or frequency of future roundups,” the organization said in an online post.
While the BLM’s stated purpose for the roundup was to “prevent unnecessary degradation of public lands” and also to reduce the number of wild horses in an area “where there currently is not enough water and/or forage to support the number of horses in the area,” the agency continues to allocate grazing allotments for private ranchers.
Return to Freedom notes the BLM wants only between 482 and 821 wild horses on the Triple B’s more than 1.6 million acres – or about one horse per 3,320 acres.
Meanwhile, as of 2017, the BLM had allocated to private ranchers 87,226 Animal Unit Months (AUMS) – with each AUM representing a month’s forage for one horse, one cow-calf pair, or five sheep.
So while wild horses are being shipped off enmasse to reportedly ration forage, livestock allocations allow an estimated 7,300 cows or 36,000 sheep to continue grazing, according to calculations from AWHC.
Contractors shipped the captured wild horses off-site to the Indian Lakes off-range wild horse and burro corral in Fallon, Nevada, and to the Southerland off-range corral in Utah, where they will be prepared to enter the agency’s Adoption Incentive Program, according to the BLM’s website.
That same program has sent an undetermined number of wild horses to slaughter, with a New York Times exposé indicating the BLM approved applicants with known connections to horse slaughter and a new AWHC report citing more than 1,000 innocent horses slaughtered as a result of the federal adoption program.
An LFT analysis of 20 helicopter-assisted roundups in 2021 revealed that 245 wild horses died during the operations, including from broken necks, snapped bones, lacerations, and unexpected heart failure.
If you haven’t already, please sign our petition urging the BLM to find more compassionate alternatives to these cruel, helicopter-assisted roundups.