AWHC reports on Calico gather

Background
On Oct. 1, 2023, the BLM began to round up 569 wild horses from the 584,000-acre Calico Complex in Nevada. The BLM sets an Appropriate Management Level of 467 to 777 wild horses. Approximately 151 mares are to be treated with the controversial fertility control vaccine, Gona Con, and then be released with approximately 171 stallions.

A captured wild horse. Photos by American Wild Horse Campaign.

Round up report
Oct.1, 2023
Approximately 25 wild horses were captured.

I met with BLM personnel at 7:30 a.m. at the Soldier Meadows turn off on Highway 34. We then drove approximately 11 to 13 miles to the observation site. However, our operations were put on hold due to rain, and we were instructed to go to town and wait for a phone call.

Around 11 a.m., we received a text message asking us to meet back at the original location. Once again, we followed the personnel to the observation area. Initially, we were told it would be a half-mile hike up the hill, followed by a flat terrain. However, the exact location was uncertain, and we ended up hiking further than anticipated before eventually turning back.

The weather remained overcast, cold and windy throughout the day. The first run of horses came in at 2:30 p.m., with approximately 17 horses. They were brought down the notch into the valley, but they were quite far from our position closer to the trap. I had an OK view of the alleyway of the trap from where I was positioned, so I tried to concentrate on that view. Loading the horses into the trap seemed a bit chaotic, but it was hard to see clearly.

I noticed a truck and trailer coming down towards us, but it veered off onto a road that was blocked from our view. The second run occurred around 3:30 p.m., and it involved four horses who appeared to be tired. Once again, they came from the same area, making it difficult to view them properly.

In between these runs, the wranglers went out and shooed the cattle away from the trap area. After the second run, they called it a day. The temporarily holding area for the horses is in the same location as last year, at the county lot off Highway 94. The snow fencing was solid, making it impossible to see the horses. I decided not to walk around as it seems to agitate the horses when they can hear us but not see us.

Wild horses captured during the Calico gather.

Oct. 2, 2023
68 wild horses were captured.

A helicopter chases these wild horses into a catch pen

Oct. 3, 2023
Fifty wild horses were captured and there was one death after the BLM euthanized a 20+-year-old buckskin mare due to a “pre-existing” fracture of the front right shoulder.

On the day of the observation, the temperature ranged between 50 and 59 degrees with scattered rain throughout the day. The meeting with BLM took place at 9 a.m. at the Soldier Meadows Road turnoff just outside Gerlach, Nevada. It was noted that 21 stallions were released back into the Granite Range by BLM, but no public observation was offered for the release.

The observation team then drove to the observation area and new trap site located approximately 10 miles up High Rock Canyon Road. A short hike was required to reach the observation area. The trap and wings were visible, with only a portion of the alleyway being hidden. It was easy to view the trap area. Four runs were observed, and it appeared that the horses were not spooked as they entered the trap area.

The day concluded around 4 p.m. at the trap, after which the team drove to the temporary holding area, which is about 2 miles from the Soldier Meadows turnoff going back towards Gerlach. The option for a walk around was offered, but the observer requested to have a spot to view the corral area instead. The observers expressed concern about the stress caused to the horses by the solid snow fencing, as they were unable to see the observers but could hear them.

These wild horses wait to be transported to a BLM facility.

Oct. 4, 2023
36 wild horses were captured and there were three deaths after the BLM euthanized an 11+-year-old roan mare for having a prolapsed uterus, a 20+-year-old grey stallion due to a fracture of the right hind leg at the knee, and a 20+-year-old black stallion for having a fracture of the right front leg.

The weather conditions started cold but warmed throughout the day, with temperatures ranging from 30 to 69 degrees. There were sunny skies with winds between 5 and 10 MPH. The day began at 6:15 a.m. with a temperature of 30degrees when meeting BLM at the Soldier Meadows Road turnoff. The observation site was reached at around 7 a.m. after hiking up a hill. At 9 a.m., the helicopter came in to refuel.

The first run brought in 11 horses at approximately 11:45 a.m. The second run occurred at 2:30 p.m. and brought in nine horses.

At 2:40 p.m., the pilot refueled and went back out. Around 3:30 p.m., seven more horses came in, and one yearling veered off from the group. Four wranglers went out, roped the yearling, and brought it in without incident.

At 3:48 p.m., the pilot brought in four more horses. At 5:03 p.m., they were waiting for the contractors to tear down the trap, and it was mentioned that they would be at a new trap location the following day. At 6:24 p.m., we traveled to temporary holding.

Due to the snow fencing/tarp material being used, it was not possible to physically see the condition of the horses, including their hooves, legs or any body injuries. However, hay and water were observed on the outside of the pens. A few mares with the FC brand on their neck were seen, and it was assumed that they would be treated again and released. There was also a vet on site. Body scores, as observed from the camera view, appeared to be around a 5.

Note that without being able to view inside the pen area, it was not possible to provide a detailed assessment of the horses’ condition.

Wild horses on the move to a BLM facility.

Oct. 5, 2023
32 wild horses were captured and there were two deaths after the BLM euthanized a 25+-year-old stallion who was blind in one eye and missing upper teeth and an 11+-year-old sorrel mare who was euthanized for blindness.

At 8 a.m., we arrived at Warm Springs HA, after driving 70 miles to the trap area. The contractors were waiting for the Bureau of Land Management Incident Commander to give the go-ahead to proceed to the new trap area.

By 10:30 a.m., the team reached the trap area and waited while the jute was hung, and the trap was set up. Since there was no existing fence to hang the jute, all the posts had to be placed in the ground, which took some time.

At 11:30 a.m., the observer hiked up to a spot approximately 1/8 of a mile from the vehicles. From there, he could see the trap located about 1/4 of a mile below them. However, the view of the opening of the wings or the alley was limited due to blocked visibility caused by trucks.

By 12:35 p.m., the observer could hear the helicopter down in the knoll for the last 20 minutes. Based on the sounds, it seemed that the horses might have turned or there were issues pushing them into the wing.

At 1:15 p.m., the first run occurred, but the observer couldn’t see much. Approximately four or five horses were involved in that run. The helicopter refueled and went back out.

By 2:51 p.m., seven horses came in, and the wranglers went out on horseback. One horse came back, but it was difficult to see clearly.

Around 3:15 p.m., approximately five more horses came in.

At 4 p.m., six to eight horses were involved in the run. Finally, at 4:10 p.m., the team called it a day.

A captured wild horse.

Oct. 6, 2023
The BLM captured 36 wild horses and one 25+ year old mare was euthanized due to “ulcerated cancer of the withers.” We met at the observation point at 5 a.m. and drove to the same location as yesterday.

We arrived at the observation point at 7 a.m. Due to the condition of the roads, it takes two hours for us to get to the observation place. When the horses are trailered to temporary holding, they are trailered on the same road, crossing the very dusty playa, raising concerns about the potential impacts of this on them.

When we arrived, the helicopter was already in the air. We hiked up the hill to the observation point and we were told we had to sit in the same location, which has no view of any of the operations except a minute of the horses passing into the blocked view catch pen.

The trap is only approximately 1/4 mile away from where we are placed, however, we are up on a hill that allows you only to see the portion of the trap that is covered with snow fencing. We are unable to see the horses coming up into the wing or alley of the trap or coming in off the range. We cannot view loading due to the trucks parked in the way. At 9 a.m. pilot came in and refueled.

 The runs
The first run was visible at 11:55 a.m., and there were 7 to 8 horses captured.

The second occurred at 12:44 p.m. with six horses. The third run at 1:48 p.m. had 6 horses.

The pilot then refueled and went back out by 2:15 p.m. At this time, no other horses had come in, so we made our way back down to the vehicles.

Around 3:15 p.m. the helicopter brought in one more group of horses and then at 4 p.m. we were told we would be heading back.

About halfway back, we had to stop and wait for a trailer to have a tire changed. At this time, we were told we would not be able to go to holding (again) due to how late we would be getting back in. I asked about the trap location and viewing for tomorrow when I RSVP’d and requested that the observation be relocated to a different area but was told that there would be no change and the observation would be at the same location.

More wild horses on the move.

Oct. 7, 2023
The BLM rounded up 70 wild horses today. The BLM euthanized a 25+ year old stallion due to a “previous fracture right rear leg.”

BLM contractors get ready to move the wild horses.

Oct. 8, 2023
18 wild horses were captured and there was one death after the BLM euthanized a 20+ year old stallion for a pre-existing snake bite.

We met the BLM at the turnoff to Soldier Meadows and followed them over the playa and up Soldier Meadows Road to the turn leading to Sheldon Wildlife Refuge. We reached the designated parking area at approximately 10 a.m.

At this location, we noticed that the observation/trap area remained the same as in the past three days. Unfortunately, there was no clear view of the horses entering or leaving the wing or the alley. Due to a tarp and trucks blocking the view, we only caught a few seconds of the horses passing by as they entered the catch pen and trap. The loading process was also obstructed from our vantage point. Only two runs occurred today.

The helicopter was fueled and airborne by 10:05 a.m. The first run, consisting of five horses, took place at 10:45 am, followed by the next run at 11:30 am, which involved seven horses. From my position, it was difficult to assess the horses’ condition accurately, but their backs appeared wet, possibly due to sweat, reflecting the sunlight.

At 12:25 p.m., a truck transported the captured horses to the holding area, and at 12:36 p.m., the helicopter refueled and went back out, but no additional horses were brought in. By 3:30 p.m., operations for the day were concluded. We arrived at the temporary holding area at approximately 5:30 p.m., where I managed to take a few pictures, although I was not permitted to walk around.

According to the BLM, the body scores of the horses observed were approximately 4 to 5. The trap was located approximately 1/8 of a mile away, but our positioning prevented us from seeing the horses entering the wings or the alley. Despite requesting a different observation location, our request was denied. The weather conditions during the observation period were relatively mild, with temperatures ranging between 59 and 69 degrees. The sky was clear, with wind gusts reaching up to 4 miles-per-hour.

Captured wild horses.

Oct.  9, 2023
31 wild horses were captured and three were killed after the BLM euthanized:

  • A 6-year-old sorrel stallion for being blind.
  • A 25-year-old stallion who had a fracture of the right front knee and was blind in his left eye.
  • A 25-year-old mare who was missing a right eye.

I met the BLM at the Soldier Meadows turnoff. The weather was overcast with scattered rain, and the temperature ranged between 50 and 63 degrees. We traveled up Highway 34 and turned onto High Rock Canyon Road, covering a distance of 33 miles. We arrived at the observation point at approximately 7:10 a.m., which is located about half a mile from the trap.

From this vantage point, I was able to observe the alleyway leading to the catch pen and loading area. The first run of horses came in at 11 a.m., bringing in a total of nine horses. The second run followed at 11:30 a.m. and brought in seven horses. Despite the windy and colder weather compared to the previous day, the horses in both runs appeared to be healthy. Notably, a younger cremello horse was among the horses in the second run.

At 11:54 a.m., the first trailer passed by to go to temporary holding. The pilot refueled at 2:10 p.m., and at 2:30 p.m., five more horses were brought in, including a beautiful pinto paint yearling. All the runs so far proceeded without any incidents. Unfortunately, there is still no padding on the bars at the trap, and the weather remains windy with strong gusts and rain.

At 2:50 p.m., I could still hear the pilot flying nearby. At 2:56 p.m., he emerged from behind the knoll, bringing in four more horses and loading them onto the trailer. At 3:17 p.m., another trailer arrived to transport horses to temporary holding. During this time, one of the horses, the cremello, lost footing and hit its head on the trailer.

At approximately 4 p.m., about seven more horses were brought in, and at 4:30 p.m., the day’s operations were concluded. We waited for the trailer to be loaded and then headed towards temporary holding.

America’s wild horses

Oct.  10, 2023
No wild horses were rounded up today, but there was one death after the BLM euthanized an 11-year-old blue roan mare for a preexisting condition.