PETITION TARGETS: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management
UPDATE (5/30/2023): Nevada Congressmember Dina Titus and Congressmembers David Schweikert (R-AZ) and Steve Cohen (D-TN) have reintroduced the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act, which seeks to amend the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to prohibit the use of aircraft to manage wild horses. A similar bill introduced in 2022 stalled, so we’re glad that these politicians are pursuing this important change! We’ll keep watching this situation. —Lady Freethinker Staff
Wild horses who snapped their necks running into corral panels, were killed following lacerations and broken bones, and who died of “unexpected heart failure” were among the victims of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s most recent helicopter-assisted roundups – or “gathers.”
At least 245 wild horses died as the result of 20 roundups in 2021-2022 where low-flying helicopters pushed the panicked animals toward corrals, according to a review of the BLM’s daily gather reports.
While the BLM’s reports cite “pre-existing conditions” – including blindness, fractures, club feet, poor body condition, and bad or no teeth – as the cause for most of the killings, at least 33 wild horses died specifically from acute or gather-related injuries, according to the gather reports.
Three of those deaths made headlines during the recent Pancake Complex roundup in Nevada – with victims of a foal separated from his family who limped reportedly for at least 29 minutes before being euthanized, a 20-year-old stallion who suffered a “break” and a 3-year-old mare killed after reportedly being too weak to stand up.
Some of the other victims, according to the BLM daily gather reports:
- a 6-year-old mare who died of a broken neck after running into a panel in a temporary corral and a 20-year-old stallion who sustained a fracture during the Barren Valley Complex roundup in Oregon
- a stallion who broke his neck during loading at the Surprise Complex roundup in California
- At least 10 horses who died from injuries including broken legs and necks, a mare who ruptured her uterus, and a horse with a broken back during the Rock Springs roundup in Wyoming
- An 11-year-old mare who died of “unexpected heart failure” during the Owyhee Wild Horse gather in Nevada; a 7-year-old mare who was killed following a laceration and a 4-year-old mare killed following a fracture in the Eagle Complex roundup, also in Nevada
While the BLM says that helicopters are a humane way to manage wild horse removals, the horrific death toll from a single year alone shows they are cruel, violent, and unacceptable.
The gruesome trend also isn’t new, with a report as far back as 2008 citing most deaths during helicopter roundups from “broken limbs or injuries sustained accidentally during gathers,” according to documentation from the Government Accountability Office.
Wild horse experts from several advocacy groups say a more effective – and less deadly – approach would involve fertility control via humane darting that would allow wild horses to remain on the range, while also contributing to the thriving ecological balance the BLM is required to maintain.
That alternative also would save U.S. taxpayers the millions of dollars spent each year to hold upwards of 50,000 wild horses in long-term holding corrals or to pay ranchers to keep the horses on private property.
Captured wild horses also sometimes meet grisly ends, with the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program exposed by the New York Times as knowingly handing over the protected animals to individuals with a history of selling horses to slaughterhouses.
Sign our petition urging the Biden Administration, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Bureau of Land Management to end deadly helicopter gathers in favor of safer, more cost-effective approaches involving humane fertility control that would allow wild horses to remain free on the range, and so help end unnecessary, grisly deaths from injuries to intentional slaughter.