Utah wild horse round-up blasted

From Reports

Last month, officials with the Bureau of Land Management conducted a helicopter roundup of wild horses at Cedar Mountain Herd Management Area in Utah. Members of the Cloud Foundation and advocates across the country contend that BLM’s actions at the roundup violated standards in the agency’s own Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program.

Three wild mustangs rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management were put up for adoption.

The Cedar Mountain wild horse population was counted at 960 by the BLM and by the end of the roundup, more than 600 had been gathered.

According to a news release from the foundation, an eyewitness, Mosie Trewhitt, who is a professional horse trainer, photographed the incident of a lone pinto mare being driven by a helicopter. The mare could not keep up with her band, but the helicopter kept pushing her. A wrangler joined the pursuit and both helicopter and wrangler chased the mare on a dead run along a barbed wire fence line. The wrangler tried to rope her numerous times and was finally successful. The mare lurched and flipped over or tried to jump the fence. She became entangled in the barbed wire, and ended up on the other side of the fence.

The mare escaped, dragging the rope behind her and has not been seen since the incident, the foundation release stated based on information from the BLM, whose officials contended the mare was uninjured.

Trewhitt’s blog, Voices of the Herd, documents the incident with photographs. Fears persist that this mare who appears to be pregnant may be strangled by the rope or suffer from infection due to an obvious gash on her right rear leg.

“I’ve witnessed roundups since 1994 in which inhumane actions were common and often ignored,” Ginger Kathrens, the executive director of the foundation and the BLM’s humane advocate on the National Wild Horse and Bureau Advisory Board, said in the release. “To their credit, BLM responded to growing concerns about the inhumane treatment of wild horses and burros during and after roundups by creating the CAWP.”

In 2011, the BLM began the process of creating humane roundup standards.  The final product, published in 2015, tried to reduce incidents like the latest reported, she said.

“Years were spent on this document at considerable expense, but the document does no good if the BLM does not follow or enforce the standards,” Paula King, TCF Communications Director, said.

After extensive review, TCF officials cited in the release what they contend are numerous violations of the CAWP that included causing injury or exhaustion with the helicopter of an animal; that when fences are involved, the proper width of the opening and option of letting the fence down must be reviewed and approved in advance by the contracting officer’s representative (COR); the use of roping must be approved prior to the procedure by the COR; that ropers must not tie the rope hard and fast to the saddle to avoid intentionally jerking an animal off its feet; and that contractors should be “characterized by compassion and concern for the animal’s well-being and welfare needs.”

BLM officials issued a statement about the account, but with no mention of any disciplinary actions they plan to take against the COR, the helicopter contractor, the wrangler or the BLM staff at the trap, according to the foundation.

Last September, when an advisory board recommended killing the 45,000 wild horses and burros currently in federal holding facilities, thousands of people spoke up to stop it, officials with the Return to Freedom website stated. BLM officials at the time stated they had no current plans to kill the animals. The agency is expected to respond to the recommendation at its meeting in April.

Until then, BLM crews continue to round up the horses, putting many of them in holding areas, which advocates have criticized for lacking space and shelter from the elements. The BLM announced plans to capture 1,575 horses in January and February. Most will never see their home ranges again, advocates said.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that some Utah lawmakers want to take over the responsibility for the wild horses from the BLM, saying federal management has been a failure and the horses have destroyed rangeland. The legislators introduced two bills seeking the repeal of a 1971 statute that protects wild horses, contending that the federal government is wasting $50 million a year confining horses that could be slaughtered for their meat.