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Questions and Answers
Where would the BLM gather horses?
The BLM would remove up to 1,000 excess wild horses in north-central Nevada within the Owyhee, Rock Creek, and Little Humboldt HMAs as well any wild horses residing outside the established boundaries of these HMAs.
Will BLM remove all the horses that are gathered?
The BLM is gathering more horses than it is removing in order to apply fertility control and release the appropriate proportions of males to females to achieve a sex ratio that is 60 percent males to 40 percent females in the herds. Therefore, the goal is to gather up to 1,400 horses, but only remove about 1,000 excess horses. The actual number of wild horses removed will depend on the overall success of the gather operations, but the overall post-gather target population is about 400 horses that would remain within the three HMAs.
How does the BLM gather horses?
The BLM uses a Federal gather contractor to gather wild horses from HMAs where the BLM has determined that excess animals exist. The contractor uses a helicopter to locate and herd horses towards a set of corrals where the horses are gathered. The helicopter is assisted by a ground crew and the use of a Prada, a domesticated horse, to lead the gathered horses into the corrals. If needed, the ground crew may assist the helicopter by roping the horses from horseback.
Why does the BLM use helicopters to gather horses – isn’t that inhumane?
The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, as amended, authorizes the BLM and the Forest Service to use helicopters to gather animals, as well as to use motorized vehicles to transport gathered animals. The use of helicopters and motorized vehicles has proven to be a safe, effective, and practical means for the gather and removal of excess wild horses and burros from the range. This is demonstrated by the gather of nearly 25,000 wild horses and burros during fiscal years 2004-2008 with a mortality rate of less than one half of one percent.
Though the horses experience a heightened stress level for the short period of time that the helicopter is herding the animals towards the gather corrals, animals calm down quite quickly afterwards. Helicopter gathers require a third to half the time of traditional water or horseback trapping methods.
Other methods of gathering horses on horseback or water trapping can be effective in small gathers and in confined spaces, but they are very time consuming and are not nearly as efficient as helicopter gathers. Water trapping can be very effective when water resources are scarce but nearly impossible otherwise.
Using horseback riders to herd the horses into gather corrals is very difficult in large open areas of public lands. This practice is very hard on the domestic horses and the riders; both have a high likelihood of being hurt. This method is very inefficient and takes an enormous amount of time to complete.
For the Owyhee, Rock Creek, and Little Humboldt HMAs, gathering on horseback or through use of water trapping would not be effective means because:
- the three HMAs encompass more than 480,000 acres which is too large to feasibly use these methods;
- the area has several, widely scattered small water sources on public and private lands, which would make it difficult to restrict horse access in order to use water traps;
- access for vehicles necessary to safely transport gathered wild horses is limited especially in the Rock Creek and Little Humboldt HMAs.
How can the BLM justify tearing apart wild horse family units?
With the exception of changes to herd demographics, professional observations over the past 35 years indicate the direct population wide impacts associated with a gather have proven to be temporary in nature. Most, if not all, impacts disappear within hours to several days of release. No observable effects associated with these impacts would be expected within one month of release, except for a heightened awareness of human presence.
Does the public have input regarding the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles in managing wild horses and burros?
Yes, Section 9 of the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, requires that a public hearing be held prior to the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles. Hearings are held annually. The purpose of the hearings is to hear public concerns so that BLM can review its standard operating procedures to assure animals are treated humanely. The BLM Nevada State Office held a public hearing on May 20, 2009. BLM reviewed its standard operating procedures in response to the views and issues raised at that public meeting and determined that no changes to the Standard Operating Procedures were warranted.