Death of Braveheart, Nevada Wild Stallion, Embodies Inhumanity of BLM Wild Horse Program

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Death of Braveheart, Nevada Wild Stallion, Embodies Inhumanity of BLM Wild Horse Program

From American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign
October 2010

Videotape shows the stallion struggling valiantly for his family and freedom, charging the fence and breaking his neck after a BLM contractor tied his saddle horse up just outside the trap pen. Braveheart struggled to his feet, unable to raise his head, before collapsing and dying with with his mare and young foal looking on.

The October 6th 2010 death of Braveheart, a mustang stallion at a U.S. Interior Department wild horse roundup, is reigniting controversy over the federal wild horse program, which has been harshly criticized, most recently by 54 members of Congress. Despite severe restrictions on the public’s ability to observe all aspects of the roundups, the death of the wild stallion was captured on video by wild horse advocates at the Silver King Herd Management Area in southeastern Nevada.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is engaged in one of the largest removals of wild horses from Western public lands in recent history – with 12,000 being removed in Fiscal Year 2010. The Silver King roundup aims to capture – via helicopter stampede – over 500 mustangs from the vast 606,000 acre herd management area, leaving just 60-120 horses behind.

The sorrel stallion, named Braveheart by advocates who witnessed his death, died after being stampeded early this morning at a full run by a helicopter into BLM’s trap pens. Videotape shows the stallion struggling valiantly for his family and freedom, charging the fence and breaking his neck after a BLM contractor tied his saddle horse up just outside the trap pen. Braveheart struggled to his feet, unable to raise his head, before collapsing and dying with with his mare and young foal looking on. His striking white mare was then loaded onto a trailer, leaving the small foal behind, alone in the trap, as the stallion’s body was covered by a tarp and dragged into the trailer.

“The BLM has gone to great lengths to prevent observers from documenting the trauma and suffering of the horses during the helicopter chase. We only captured this tragedy on film by chance,” said Suzanne Roy, Campaign Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, who attended the roundup today. “The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign is calling on the Interior Department to institute full transparency in all BLM wild horse and burro operations. We are also renewing the call to suspend the roundups, which are unnecessary and egregiously inhumane.”

The BLM’s intent to prevent the public from capturing images of the anguish and trauma the horses endure was made clear by BLM contractor Dave Cattoor, who was filmed by the New York Times at an August roundup in Twin Peaks California, stating:

“If somethin’ happens, we’re gonna correct it quickly, just like we talked about. If it’s a broken leg, we’re going to put it down and slide it on the trailer and we’re gonna go to town with it. We’re not gonna give them the that one shot they want.”

Lily Thomas, BLM wild horse and burro specialist, acknowledged at a public meeting in Denver on June 14, 2010 that BLM was aiming to control images of the roundups that were released by advocates on the social media sites:

“That’s been one of the problems we’ve had, there has been a lot of video out there and...working with wild horses is not a pretty sight. . . It’s caused us a really hard time in trying to explain what’s happening.”

Laura Leigh of Grassroots Horse has filed a lawsuit over the Silver King access and lack of public access to observe all aspects of the Interior Department’s wild horse and burro program. She was present at the roundup today and stated:

“The Interior Department’s actions at Silver King have made a mockery of public access. Clearly, the intent is to prevent the public from seeing the reality of its treatment of these iconic animals who symbolize freedom to people worldwide.”

During yesterday’s scheduled “public observation day” at Silver King, BLM officials allowed public observers to watch the capture of approximately fourteen of the more than 40 horses captured in the roundup operation.\

Wild horses comprise a small fraction of grazing animals on public lands, where they are outnumbered by livestock nearly 50 to 1. The BLM has recently increased cattle grazing allotments in areas where wild horses are being removed. Livestock grazing is authorized on 160 million acres of BLM land, while wild horses are restricted to just 26 million acres, which they must share with livestock. The Interior Department warehouses more than 38,000 wild horses in government holding facilities, a number that now exceeds the population left on free on the range.The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign is a broad-based coalition of 40 public interest groups, environmentalists, humane organizations and historical societies representing over 10 million supporters dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable free-roaming herds for generations to come.