Seven wild horses from Nevada died gruesome deaths on their way to holding corrals in Utah after a semi-truck, contracted by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), turned over on its side on a highway.
The recent fatalities bring the preventable death toll up to 11 wild horse deaths in the nine days since the roundup began on Oct. 22.
Lady Freethinker had stationed an observer in the Roberts Mountain Complex, a swath of 556,500 acres of public and private lands about 20 miles northwest of Eureka, after learning that the BLM had planned yet another massive helicopter-assisted roundup, with a goal of removing 1,068 wild horses from their home range.
Our observer in Nevada reported to us about the accident after the truck, carrying 36 captured wild horses to the Axtell Holding Corrals, turned over on its side off Hwy 50 outside Delta, Utah — more than 200 miles away from the trap site in Nevada.
The BLM’s website noted that three wild horses died in the accident and four others were killed due to the severity of their injuries. The daily gather report noted that “many” of the 29 survivors also suffered cuts and bruises.
“Maybe there’s a reason to not be transporting the horses so far away,” the observer said following the accident.
The driver reportedly was not injured, and the cause of the accident remains under investigation, according to the BLM.
The BLM did not answer questions about how many of the 29 horses were injured, telling Lady Freethinker by email only that there were “some small cuts, abrasions, and swollen up eyes.”
“No other veterinary care was necessary after being inspect at the Delta facility by our contract veterinarian on multiple visits,” BLM Nevada Media Lead Rita Henderson said on Nov. 1. “Several horses with eye injuries are being monitored and may need care after their eye swelling subsides. No other animals have injuries that have required them to be put down.”
Tragically, this is the second shipping-related incident in this sole roundup. A 20-year-old sorrel mare broke her neck during shipping on the second day of the roundup, according to the BLM.
“Lady Freethinker stationed an observer at this roundup because we knew there were likely to be horrific deaths and injuries as these majestic animals were cruelly pursued by helicopter,” said Lady Freethinker Founder Nina Jackel. “The two shipping accidents — and the preventable wild horse deaths that followed — further exemplify why these brutal roundups need to end for good.”
Three other federally-protected horses also have been killed already in this roundup, including a 20-year-old male horse who broke his leg after being chased by the helicopter and two blind horses — a 15-year-old bay and an 18-year-old sorrel stallion — who were shot to death.
The BLM claims on its website that the roundup is necessary to “prevent undue or unnecessary degradation of the public lands” reportedly caused by wild horses both inside and outside of the herd management area.
The agency estimates 1,294 wild horses in the area and says that an Appropriate Management Level (or AML) for the area is 110 to 184 wild horses — or one horse per 5,059 acres or 3,024 acres, respectively.
While the BLM is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to round up and remove wild horses — with a budget of $137.1 million in fiscal year 2022 for the wild horse and burro program — the agency is continuing to lease out multiple allotments for privately-owned livestock to graze in the area.
That’s despite the agency’s acknowledgment that “Throughout the Roberts Mountain Herd Management Area, livestock and wild horses can and do utilize the same habitat and have dietary overlap.”
BLM documents show allotments of at least 21,407 Animal Unit Months (AUM), a unit of measurement that roughly equates to the amount of forage needed for 1,000 pounds of animal — typically a mother cow and her calf, five sheep, or five goats — and that cattle and sheep currently are grazing in the area.
The tragedies unfolding for the Roberts Mountain Complex horses follow on the heels of 39 gruesome wild horse deaths from the August 2023 Antelope Complex roundup.
Victims of that roundup included a Palomino stallion who broke his leg while jumping out of a holding corral and who was chased for nearly an hour before being shot to death, according to LFT’s observer.
Meanwhile, as of September 2023, more than 60,000 wild horses remained in limbo in BLM holding facilities — with the BLM itself noting that the agency was in an “unsustainable position of gathering excess horses while its holding costs spiral upward.”
In addition to stationing an observer at Roberts Mountain, Lady Freethinker has advocated for Nevada’s wild horses by observing at roundups for the past two years, filing an amicus brief in the court system in support of halting the Antelope Complex helicopter roundup during the summer’s heat, mobilizing celebrities and the public through a week of action to speak up for more compassionate alternatives, and by sending official letters of concern to key authorities with the BLM.
We thank the more than 60,000 people who have helped us tell the Bureau of Land Management to end helicopter-assisted roundups for good in favor of more compassionate management solutions, such as humane fertility-control vaccines via darting. We will keep advocating for wild horses!
If you haven’t already, please sign and share our petition in support of a ban on helicopter roundups nationwide.