TONOPAH — Bureau of Land Management officials reportedly rounded up 309 wild horses earlier this month, and removed 137 from public lands in northern Nye County. The roundup — part of the Nevada Wildhorse Range Herd Management Area’s seasonal gathering — ended on Dec. 14, according to BLM officials.
Of those gathered, BLM officials released back to the range 109 mares treated with GonaCon Equine, a population suppression control vaccine, 53 studs and three foals.
BLM officials say they aim to curb wild horse numbers from exceeding what the desert range can sustain and restore a “thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationship on public lands” as called for under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Officials must reapply fertility control to mares to prevent them from overpopulating, they say.
“This gather was critical in the management of wild horses on the Nevada Wild Horse Range so we can keep them at an appropriate management level for the area,” said Nicholas Pay, Pahrump Field Manager.
BLM officials did not indicate if any horses were injured or killed during the latest round-up. The Nevada Wild Horse Range is entirely inside the Nevada Test and Training Range — only essential gather operations personnel were allowed at the trap site during gather operations.
The BLM reportedly transported the animals removed from the range to the Ridgecrest Regional Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Ridgecrest, Calif., to be readied for the BLM’s wild horse and burro Adoption and Sales Program.
Wild horses not adopted or sold will be placed in long-term pastures where they will be humanely cared for, according to BLM officials.
Roundups under fire
Nye County officials and others have increasingly criticized BLM practices and the roundups of wild horses.
They adopted a resolution in 2020 against the use of helicopters in BLM roundup activities.
“…BLM spends multi-millions of taxpayer dollars for these helicopter roundups, across the U.S., there has been much public comment given to the BLM asking for the heinous and sadistic roundups to stop and suggestions made that are much more financially responsible, to which the BLM has turned a deaf ear,” commissioners resolved. “…Nye County is insisting that the BLM conduct the roundup of wild horses and burros in a humane manner at all times of a roundup …Whoever uses an aircraft or a motorized vehicle to hunt, for the purpose or capturing or killing, any wild unbranded horse, mare, colt or burros running at-large on any of the public lands or ranges shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”
In October, the county commission passed a bill with more teeth, calling for the “humane treatment” in wild horse gatherings, after cries from local animal advocates reached a fever pitch largely because two notable horses in Pahrump Valley were removed, along with 14 others in a summer roundup near Johnnie.
Animal advocates have since worked with the BLM on a plan to return many wild horses removed from Pahrump Valley to Oatman Burro Sanctuary, a private facility that provides refuge for the animals.
“Everyone agrees, wild horse and burro management is a very passionate topic and it is sometimes easier to lay blame on others or government entities, but pointing fingers would not bring the animals back,” animal advocate and a spokesperson for the local wild horses project Victoria Balint, told the Pahrump Valley Times earlier this month.