Last week’s feature concerning controversy of wild horses being sold by the Bureau of Land Management for slaughter brought comments of ire from both sides of the issue.
That was expected, but the accompanying photo of the government using a helicopter to move and gather the mustangs also caused debate. Follow-up research revealed that such roundup methods bring considerable ire from wild horse supporters.
A single Bell helicopter, the kind once used for wartime observation, was used in one of the federal government’s recent wild horse roundups near Sacramento, California, to capture 130 wild horses from the rugged high desert.
It began flying missions just after 7:30 a.m., and within four hours had completed three roundups of horses in what could have been six-week project using traditional roundup methods on the ground.
Federal rangers and sheriff’s deputies were present in the area, poised to respond to any problems or demonstrations aimed at halting what the Bureau of Land Management refers to as a “gather” designed to reduce the herd population to protect the horses and the land.
But there were no problems evident, and only about a dozen members of the public showed up to watch, some of them wild horse advocates who drove from as far away as Olympia, Wash.
Horse advocates who want the roundups stopped say they are pointless and unnecessary, noting that the area, where the horses were gathered, consists of more than 800,000 acres, with an estimated population of 2,200 horses.
Land management officials dispute that, saying the range can support fewer than 500
wild horses and that overcrowding would harm the herd.
The federal government won the fight in court, after wild horse advocates unsuccessfully sought injunctions first from a federal judge inCalifornia and then the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals.
Opponents of the roundup say BLM contractors stampede the bands of horses, imperiling their health and that of their young foals.
They point to a Nevada roundup that left nearly two dozen animals dead from water poisoning after they became dehydrated and were gathered by helicopter.
But the BLM says there is no stampede involved in moving the animals. The helicopter swooped low over the horses, prompting them to move single file toward the draw, where they proczeded to what looked like an open avenue of escape.
Once cornered inside the funnel of netting however, the helicopter kept most from turning around and they moved forward toward the pens. Waiting off to the side holding a horse on a bridle, contractor Dave Cattoor watched for signs of hesitation.
Once the wild horses stopped moving forward, he released the horse and it led the animals forward into the capture pens and later being removed the wild horses.
The roundup will continue until enough horses and burros have been gathered and afterward will be adopted out or shipped to pastures in the Midwest, such as those in the Flint Hills, where federal funds pay to keep them alive and fed.
Wild horse advocates say the roundups have led to most of the nation’s wild horses now being in captivity, and they claim ranching interests that want cattle to graze
the lands rather than wild horses are largely to blame.
Cattoor, who has been conducting such roundups since 1971, contends wild horse advocates have made the situation worse by fighting to keep the horses wild rather than allowing some in what he contends is a huge overpopulation to be humanely
“You can’t save them all,” said Cattoor, who is paid from $150 to $500 per head and is the only contractor being used for such roundups. “This thing has got a brick wall
in front of us and we’re running into it.”