According to a statement from the American Wild Horse Campaign, this palomino mare, far right, and her newborn foal were herded and "appeared exhausted" during a BLM helicopter gather. The helicopter continued to push the horses toward the trap, and the mare went down. A few minutes later, her body was trucked away. Photo by AWHC

Two wild horses break necks, foals continue to perish in federal wild horse roundup

Yesterday, two wild horses broke their necks and died at the ongoing Bureau of Land Management roundups in eastern Nevada, according to a statement from the American Wild Horse Campaign. The latest violent deaths come on the heels of a traumatic incident in which a Palomino stallion shattered his leg upon escaping the trap last Thursday.

The statement continues, at approximately 10:30 a.m. Sunday, AWHC’s observer documented a small group of horses being pushed up the side of a ridge by the helicopter flown by BLM contractor, Cattoor Livestock. The small herd, including the palomino mare and her newborn foal, stopped and appeared exhausted.

Despite the horses’ condition, the helicopter continued to push them toward the wing area of the trap, and suddenly the palomino mare went down. Photos show her failed struggle to get up. Shortly after, two livestock trucks were positioned in front of the public observation area, blocking the view for about10 minutes before the mare’s body was trucked away.

The BLM reported that a 3-year-old roan stallion broke his neck after crashing into the trap panel yesterday.

“Despite the scorching heat that left these horses visibly drained, the BLM contractor persisted in their pursuit of a mare and her family, even with a young foal in tow, resulting in yet another tragic death at this roundup,” said Grace Kuhn, Communications Director. “This cruel treatment of wild horses in unacceptable and far below the standard that Americans expect for these iconic animals. We are releasing the photos and video to educate the public about the BLM’s inhumane approach to wild horse management, which relies on traumatic and costly roundups instead of prioritizing on-range management with humane fertility control.”

Foal deaths
On Saturday, a sorrel foal died suddenly according to BLM after experiencing a “umbilical hernia”.

This brings the total of foal deaths to five
July 10, 2023: A sorrel foal died post-capture due to “colic” in the southern operation.

July 13, 2023: A black foal died suddenly due to “sudden/acute colic” and a bay foal was euthanized for “lameness” in the northern operation.

July 13, 2023: A sorrel foal died due to “dehydration” in the southern operation.

AWHC highlighted the significant risks to newborn foals and pregnant mares during summer helicopter roundups. Foals, in particular, are vulnerable to a condition known as “capture myopathy,” where muscle damage occurs due to extreme exertion, struggle, or stress during capture or the chase. The summer hot temperatures and repeated capture attempts increase the risk of suffering for these animals.

According to the BLM, three leppy (orphan) foals were taken into foster care, raising questions about why they were orphaned, where their mothers are, and how many other foals were separated from their families during the chase.

AWHC points to past roundup operations where foals were left to fend for themselves in the wild after the contractors ended operations for the day.

The organization voiced concerns about the welfare of the young foals and the pregnant mares that are present on the range during the summer months and asserts that the BLM should not chase these vulnerable horses in the high summer heat, over rough desert terrain, and during “foaling season”.

The BLM aims to capture 1,107 wild horses from the southern portion of the Antelope Complex and another 2,000 in the northern part happening simultaneously, bringing the total number of animals targeted for removal to over 3,000.

To date, 249 wild horses have been captured in the northern portion of the Complex. To date, 667 wild horses have been captured in the southern portion.

AWHC raises questions about the need for this roundup, pointing to more humane and cost-effective management tactics like the robust implementation of a PZP fertility control program and a directive from Congress to scale up the efforts.

Video footage of a tiny foal suffering a broken leg while being chased by a helicopter last year inspired the introduction of legislation to ban the use of helicopters for wild horse and burro removals. Representatives Dina Titus, David Schweikert and Steve Cohen reintroduced the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act earlier this year.

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.