These wild horses, photographed in eastern Lassen County, are not subject to the current Bureau of Land Management gather. Photo by Norm Williams

American Wild Horse Campaign criticizes BLM round-up near Susanville

According to a statement from the American Wild Horse Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy organization, 115 wild horses have been captured so far and six horses died.

Public observers with the American Wild Horse Campaign are on the ground at the Bureau of Land Management helicopter removal operation of wild horses from the Surprise Complex, west of Cedarville.

As of Sept. 22, 2023, contractors with the BLM have captured 96 horses and euthanized six with preexisting conditions: a 20-year-old mare with cancer of the eye, a 3-year-old mare in poor body condition, a 2-year-old stallion with a spinal deformity, a 25-year-old stallion with a leg injury, a 4-year-old stallion with clubbed feet and a 3-year-old mare with clubbed feet.

According to a previous statement from the BLM, “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 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The action is also necessary to reduce overpopulation of wild horses within and outside the area, and to prevent further degradation of public lands by balancing herd size with other land users and available resources.”

AWHC reports the BLM has granted $690,000 in taxpayer funds to private contractor Sampson Livestock of Meadows, Utah to conduct the removal operation.

Observers are being kept more than a mile from the trap site with no view of the trap to assess the condition of the horses.

AWHC observers documented several horses with injuries and wounds, and horses were coming in drenched in sweat, evidence of being chased for long periods of time.

AWHC observers noted that on Sept. 19, 2023, horses were loaded onto a trailer at approximately 12:30 p.m., and stayed inside the trailer while not in transport until at least 5:15 p.m.

According to the BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program, the agency violated its own standards, “WH&Bs should not be allowed to remain standing on straight-deck and stock trailers while not in transport for a combined period of greater than three hours.”

Other issues include but are not limited to:

  • Public observers are not allowed to walk around freely in the temporary corral holding area, where newly captured horses are.
  • Lack of interaction with staff or authorities to discuss the day’s activities or ask questions.
  • The temporary holding area appears insufficient in size to accommodate the additional horses.
  • Observing the horses at the temporary holding is nearly impossible due to it being covered in snow fencing. Observers are unable to check the welfare of animals.
  • Concerns about not being able to observe foals, assess their condition, or evaluate hoof conditions.

AWHC is on the ground to educate the public about the BLM’s approach to wild horse management, which relies on traumatic and costly roundups instead of prioritizing on-range management with humane fertility control.

“The BLM’s decision to allocate more than $600,000 in taxpayer funds for private interests to engage in activities that harm the very animals they are supposed to safeguard is not only concerning but also a needless expense when humane alternatives exist,” said Grace Kuhn, Communications Director with the American Wild Horse Campaign. “Moreover, these horses belong to the American public, and we possess the right to engage in meaningful observation to witness their treatment.”


After witnessing video footage of a tiny foal suffering a broken leg while being chased by a helicopter last year, Representatives Dina Titus, David Schweikert and Steve Cohen introduced the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act (H.R.3656) to ban the use of helicopters for wild horse and burro removals.

About the American Wild Horse Campaign
The American Wild Horse Campaign is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America’s wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the state of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.