BLM Captures 74 Mustangs on First Day of Roundup

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BLM Captures 74 Mustangs on First Day of Roundup

By Sharon Seltzer on Care2.com, December 2009

If you would like to help save the wild mustangs in Nevada, take action here, Save the Wild Horses.

Even as protesters lined the entrances to several conservation areas and last minute petitions were being sent to government agencies, the mass capture of 2,500 wild mustangs in the northern part of Nevada began on Monday, December 28, 2009.

The project which is led by the Bureau of Land Management is expected to take up to two-months and is the largest wild horse roundup in recent years. On the first day, 74 wild mustangs were rounded up without incident.

The goal of the BLM is to move horses from five federally managed areas in the Calico Mountains and place the older ones in long-term holding corrals in the Midwest while adopting the younger horses to individuals.

The BLM said the roundup is necessary because there are five times as many horses living on the 850 miles of land than it can handle. They reported that the overpopulated area could become “unlivable to wildlife and livestock within four years.”

However, the real objective for this roundup may be to save the federal government some money. When Interior Secretary Ken Salazar first announced his intentions to implement the mass capture in October, he reported that the cost to maintain the horses was becoming a strain on the government and that unless they were rounded up there might be a need to kill them.

That set animal activist organizations like Care2 members into motion to stop the roundup. In recent week’s petitions have been sent to stop the mass capture or at the very least make it a humane effort.

The animal advocate group, In Defense of Animals even initiated a lawsuit to protect the horses.

In addition to being angry about the government’s underlying intention for the program, activists are worried about the inhumane method used to capture the mustangs. BLM uses two helicopters to drive the horses down from the mountain where they live and into corrals. In the past, this technique was so traumatic for the horses that it sent many into a panic which ultimately ended with injuries and several deaths.

Activist Elyse Gardner told the L.A. Times, “It’s a brutal process no matter how they do it. Legs get broken, horses get sick, foals can’t keep up and get separated from their mothers.” Horses with broken legs are typically euthanized.

The groups also contend that if BLM waited a few more weeks, the horses would move themselves to lower ground to get out of the snow in the mountains and the roundup would be a safer procedure.

Furthermore, activist groups are worried about the quality of care these horses will receive once they are corralled. Mustangs and burros from previous roundups haven’t faired very well. And advocates question BLM’s claim about adopting the animals. The facility in Reno is already full to capacity with adoptable horses that can’t find new homes and the idea of adding more horses will only make matters worse.

In Defense of Animals has called the whole process illegal.

Their lawyer, William Spriggs said, "The BLM's policy of mass removal and stockpiling of horses was never authorized by Congress when it protected these iconic animals in 1971 as an important part of our national heritage.”

Erik Petersen, a lawyer who represents the BLM countered with, “The roundup is needed because more than 3,100 horses and burros crowd the Calico Mountain Complex in northwestern Nevada -- about five times as many horses as the land can handle. Removing the animals also will help preserve the ‘endangered and rapidly disappearing’ rangeland where they live.”

Animal advocates are still hoping that their views will be heard by the Obama administration and that a moratorium on the roundup will be called. On Sunday 30 protesters gathered in the southern part of Nevada and more protests are planned later this week in San Francisco, Chicago and Denver.