Observers note “precision” in BLM wild horse gathers

News
Jan 21, 2011
by WLJ

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last week released a report prepared by four independent, credentialed equine professionals concerning the care and handling of wild horses and burros at three major gathers or round-ups held over the summer. The full report, accessible at BLM’s national website, made several observations and findings, including the observation that, in general, “horses did not exhibit undue stress or show signs of extreme sweating or duress due to the helicopter portion of the gather, maintaining a trot or canter gait only as they entered the wings of the trap. Rather[,] horses showed more anxiety once they were closed in the pens in close quarters; however, given time to settle, most of the horses engaged in normal behavior ....” The report also favorably noted the helicopter’s “precision” in gathering horses and burros, comparing it to “a dog working sheep.”

Other findings by the equine professionals, who observed gathers at the Owyhee Herd Management Area (Nevada), Stinking Waters Herd Management Area (Oregon), and Twin Peaks Herd Management Area (California), include:

• Contractor and BLM personnel appeared to be gentle and knowledgeable, using acceptable methods for moving horses forward at the trap sites and the holding facilities;

• Chutes and pens were set up in a manner that reflected recommended handling practices for reducing animal stress in traps;

• Horses were sorted appropriately at temporary holding facilities;

• Horses were assessed by federal veterinarians (from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS) to be capable of travel before transport to BLM holding facilities;

• APHIS veterinarians were open and candid regarding protocols for treating injured or ill horses. In the case of euthanasia or injuries, there was no attempt to minimize or hide any information or details.

BLM will use the observations and findings of this report as it considers development of an independent observer program as part of the agency’s ongoing effort to put the Wild Horse and Burro Program on a sustainable track. — WLJ

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