The Bureau of Land Management captures wild horses in a gather near Surprise Valley. Photos by the American Wild Horse Campaign

American Wild Horse Campaign reports on Surprise Valley wild horse gather

Here’s a report from the American Wild Horse Campaign on the recent Surprise Valley wild horse gather.

On Sept. 18, 2023, the Bureau of Land Management will begin a roundup and removal of the wild horses from the Surprise Complex, east of Cedarville, California. According to BLM, a Complex is a group of Herd Management Areas in close proximity to one another. Wild horses from the High Rock, Fox Hog and Wall Canyon will be rounded up and removed. The agency set a target goal of 494 wild horses to be rounded up, with approximately 404 permanently removed. All horses were transferred to the BLM’s holding facility at Litchfield.

Roundup report
Sept. 24
40 wild horses were captured and there were two deaths. According to BLM:  an 11-year-old lame mare with abscessed and infected left front hoof, and a mare more than 25 years old in poor body condition.

Sept. 23
103 wild horses were captured and there were four deaths. According to BLM: a blind 20-year-old stallion, a 3-year-old mare with ruptured eye socket, a 3-year-old mare, severe rupture in anus area and 2-month-old foal with right leg injury and poorly fused previous bone break.

Sept. 22
82 wild horses were captured and there was 1 death after the BLM euthanized a six-month-old horse was euthanized due to blindness and a poor prognosis for recovery. The first horse run came in at 10:55 a.m. with approximately 15 horses. The pilot refueled and went back out. The second run occurred at 12:31 p.m., with around six horses. After refueling, the pilot returned at 2:48 p.m. This time, approximately 39 to 40 horses were brought in. The pilot had been working these horses toward the trap for a few hours, staying behind and slowly guiding them in. The horses seemed tired in their movements. At 4:13 p.m., another group of 15 horses came in. Throughout all the runs, the horses remained calm and loaded well into the trap. We called it a day and proceeded to the temporary holding area.

However, the snow fencing limited our viewing options. Although we were given a walk around the temporary holding area, it didn’t provide any additional access to view the horses. As we passed by, the horses seemed a bit spooked, possibly because they could hear us but not see us. Overall, the trap appeared to be well-constructed at this site, unlike a few days ago. The horses came in without any issues, and even when larger numbers were brought in, they remained calm. I didn’t witness any horses hitting panels or attempting to jump out of the catch pen. They were loaded onto trailers quietly, and there were no reported injuries.

Sept. 21
19 wild horses captured. At 10:50 a.m,, I spotted seven horses. The helicopter refueled again and I could only see the approach, not the trap or the wings. It seems like the pilot hovers over the catchpen for a few seconds longer than necessary when bringing the horses in. At 11:06 a.m., the trailer left for temporary holding, and at 1:35 p.m., it came back for fuel. At 2:48 pm, eight horses came in.

Sept. 20
27 horses captured, three deaths. In Cedarville, California we reached the observation area by 10 a.m., but the trap was set below a rise, making it difficult to see. The horses were perspiring as they arrived at the observation area. The first run began at 10 a.m., but the horses did not come into view until 12:02 p.m., followed by the second group at 1:30 p.m., and the third group at 2:30 p.m. Unfortunately, it was challenging to see the horses due to the distance and heat waves. The pilot ran three horses down into the wash and then flew in a different direction. At 12:02 p.m., the first run consisted of 16 horses, but they had to stop to refuel. They were back in the air by 12:05 p.m. At 1:30 p.m., the pilot pushed another group toward the trap. The stallion tried to lead his family away from the trap, but they all went in. The stallion continued into the trap on his own, attempting to get them out. The pilot pursued him until finally allowing him to walk off in the direction they were brought in. The stallion kept looking back to see if any of his family members were able to escape. It was heartbreaking to watch. The BLM euthanized three3 additional horses, a 20-year-old mare with cancer of the eye, a 3-year-old mare in poor body condition and a 2-year-old stallion with a spinal deformity

Sept. 19
5 horses captured, one left dead. The first run came in at 8:30 a.m., followed by the second run around 10 a.m., and the third run around 12:30 p.m. Each run had only a few horses, and the pilot had some difficulty getting the horses into the trap during the third run. The horses appeared tired and sweaty as they came in. We left for holding at 1 p.m. and waited for the trailer to arrive with the horses. Finally, around 5:15 p.m., the trailer arrived, which meant that the horses that came in at 12:30 p.m. had been waiting in the trailer the entire time since they were loaded at the trap.

Sept. 18
Day 1 results in 44 wild horses captured, two left dead The first run occurred at 8:39 a.m. During the second attempt, we saw five horses coming down through the draw, but they split up and went in different directions. The second run happened at 12:27 p.m. While the trailers went by, I noticed that one of them had a small 4 runner in the back, which caused the horses to have very little room. The short-term holding area was at a good distance from the trap. We left the observation area at 1 p.m. to go to the temporary holding facility. After we left, a run of 11 horses came in.