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Questions and Answers
Why is the BLM using a helicopter to chase and capture wild horses in the summer’s extreme heat?
During the summer, the BLM tries to limit the capture of wild horses to the extent possible, to the morning hours when temperatures are cooler to avoid the heat of the day. Trap sites are selected to shorten the distance animals must travel to the trap to minimize the potential for heat and dust related-stress. The BLM and the gather contractor also make sure there is plenty of clean water for the animals to drink once they have been captured.
The BLM has been conducting wild horse and burros gathers with the assistance of a helicopter since the mid-1970s. During this time, the BLM and the gather contractors have identified and refined a number of standard operating procedures that minimize potential stress and injury to wild horses and burros to ensure a safe and humane gather occurs.
Isn’t it true that during the summer foals are small and that a lot of the foals could be orphaned, killed or injured?
During the summer, when foals are smaller, the BLM requires the contractor to herd the animals in a manner that allows foals to remain with their mares. In the event a foal is separated from the band, the pilot will either separate the mare and foal from the band and leave them back, he may abandon the attempt for that group of animals, or he will call for the assistance of a ground crew in order to gather the foal and its mare together.
The BLM also prohibits gathering wild horses with a helicopter during the six weeks before and the six weeks following the peak foaling period, which is March through June for most wild horse herds.
If foals are orphaned during the gather, how does the BLM take care of them?
A small number of foals can be orphaned in any gather. Sometimes foals which have been previously orphaned (abandoned by the mare) are also captured. In either situation, the BLM makes every effort to provide prompt, humane care to orphan foals. The BLM and the gather contractor’s crew care for the foal until it can be transported to a BLM holding facility where it will receive the care that it needs. The orphan foals will be fed milk replacer as needed to support their nutritional needs. If necessary, veterinarians may administer electrolyte solutions if the foal is dehydrated. BLM also tries to place orphan foals in an approved foster home to receive the additional care it may need. Once orphan foals are large enough, they are made available for adoption to qualified individuals who can provide them with a good home.
Is this an emergency action?
It is not currently, but could become, due to limited water resources. If this population management action is not completed in the near future, the likelihood of an emergency situation increases due to limited water availability for excess wild horses caused by abnormally dry conditions or severe weather.
What happens to the horses that don’t go back to the range?
The excess wild horses removed from the range will be shipped to either the Palomino Valley Center (PVC) outside of Reno, Nevada, or to the Butterfield Canyon Corrals, outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, to be prepared for the BLM wild horse adoption program or for long-term holding. They will be checked by a veterinarian and receive vaccinations and freeze marks. We are not sure when these particular horses would be available for adoption but they will be available for adoption as soon possible following the adoption preparation process.
Currently there are more than 30,000 wild horses and burros maintained at short and long-term holding facilities and pastures. In the case of long-term holding pastures, unadopted and unsold horses live out the rest of their lives in these grassy prairie-land areas of the Midwest, and are cared for by contractors. New contracts for long-term holding pastures will allow an additional 8,000 head to be cared for in long-term holding pastures, and these pastures will be available to accommodate the horses gathered from the Owyhee, Rock Creek, and Little Humboldt HMAs and from other gathers. Animals are held between 10 and 25 years depending on their age when they enter lifetime holding. In contrast, only a small percentage of wild horses roaming public rangelands live past the age of 15 because of the harsher living conditions.