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BLM postpones wild horse gather at Fish Creek HMA

The Bureau of Land Management Mount Lewis Field Office is postponing the 2020 Fish Creek wild horse gather to later this year or early 2021 because of operational concerns with COVID-19 related to this particular gather.

The gather was scheduled to start Nov. 16 on the Fish Creek Herd Management Area located near Eureka. Other scheduled gathers are still moving forward.

Fish Creek HMA encompasses more than 250,000 acres of public land and has an Appropriate Management Level of 107-180 wild horses.

A helicopter survey conducted in December 2019 showed an estimated population of 240 horses, approximately 140% of the high end of the established AML.

The BLM plans to gather approximately 195 wild horses, remove approximately 135 excess wild horses and treat up to 30 mares with PZP-22, a population suppression fertility control vaccine. The treated mares will be released back to the range along with up to 30 studs. Approximately 105 wild horses will remain in the HMA once gather operations are complete.

The purpose of the gather is to prevent undue or unnecessary degradation of the public lands associated with excess wild horses and burros and to restore a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationship on public lands, consistent with the provisions of Section 1333(b) of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The action is also necessary to reduce overpopulation of wild horses within and outside the HMA, where there currently is not enough water to support the number of horses in the area, and to prevent further degradation of public lands by helping to balance herd size.

By balancing herd size with what the land can support, the BLM aims to protect habitat for other wildlife species such as sage grouse, pronghorn antelope, mule deer and elk. Removing excess animals would also enable significant progress toward achieving the standards for rangeland health identified by the Resource Advisory Council.

“We conduct gathers like this to ensure the health of rangelands within the HMA as well as the wild horses in the area, both of which are at risk due to herd overpopulation and severe drought conditions,” said Doug Furtado, Battle Mountain district manager. “As always, we are committed to conducting safe and humane gather operations as we work to protect animal health by bringing herd size down to AML in order to restore a thriving natural ecological balance to the range, and protect the range from the deterioration associated with overpopulation.”

The BLM’s priority is to conduct safe, efficient and successful wild horse and burro gather operations while ensuring humane care and treatment of all animals gathered. The BLM and its contractors will use the best available science and handling practices for wild horses and burros while meeting overall gather goals and objectives in accordance with the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy.

All horses identified for removal will be transported to the Bruneau Off-Range Corrals in Bruneau, Idaho. Upon arrival to the facility, all animals will be checked by a veterinarian and readied for the BLM’s wild horse and burro adoption and sale program.

Members of the public are welcome to view the gather operations, provided that doing so does not jeopardize the safety of the animals, staff and observers or disrupt gather operations. The BLM will escort the public to gather observation sites located on public lands. Once gather operations have begun, those wanting to view gather operations must call the gather hotline nightly at 775-861-6700 to receive specific instructions on each days’ meeting location and time.

Facemasks are required for daily safety briefings and in the observation areas, and social distancing will be observed. Observers are urged to bring hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to use as soap and water are not available at the gather site, and nobody should attend the gather if sick or recently exposed (within 14 days) to someone with COVID-19.

Gather reports and additional information will be posted on the BLM website at https://go.usa.gov/x78rK. For technical information, contact Wild Horse and Burro Specialist Shawna Richardson at 775-635-4181 or s1richar@blm.gov.

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