Tonopah, Nev. - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Battle Mountain District, Tonopah Field Office is scheduled to begin a drought related helicopter gather within the Fish Lake Valley and Gold Mountain Herd Management Areas (HMAs) beginning on or about August 19. The BLM intends to relocate 180 wild horses threatened by severe drought from areas within, and near the HMAs, to off-range facilities.
Drought conditions have persisted throughout Nevada since 2012, leading to pending emergency conditions in these two HMAs in Esmeralda County, that seriously threaten the health and well-being of these wild horses. The BLM has been closely monitoring drought conditions within the HMAs, and associated grazing allotments, since 2012. Although some rainfall has occurred, the moisture has been insufficient to break the drought, which has left extremely limited amounts of water and forage in the area. Henneke Body Condition Scores within the Fish Lake Valley and Gold Mountain HMAs range from poor (1.5) to moderately thin (4). Wild horses with a Henneke Body Condition Score of 2 or less are at risk of death if they remain on the range, given the current drought conditions and lack of resources.
Gold Mountain HMA is located about three miles south of Gold Point, in southwestern Nevada, and encompasses approximately 100,000 acres of primarily BLM land. Appropriate Management Level for Gold Mountain HMA is currently 0 wild horses and 78 burros. The estimated wild horse population within Gold Mountain HMA is 33 horses and 1 mule. Monitoring shows that the only known perennial water source within the Gold Mountain HMA is nearly dry, and has completely dried in previous years, resulting in horse deaths. Additionally, because horses are reliant on a single water source, they are unable to venture far from that water. Horses removed from Gold Mountain HMA will be transported to the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison, UT.
Fish Lake Valley HMA is located just northwest of Dyer, in western Nevada, and encompasses approximately 70,000 acres of primarily BLM land. The AML for Fish Lake Valley HMA is currently 54 wild horses. The estimated wild horse population within Fish Lake Valley HMA is 229 wild horses. Monitoring shows that vegetation growth is extremely limited within the HMA. Additionally, areas lower in elevation have been denuded of nearly all vegetation. Lack of vegetation is not only a problem for the wild horses, but there is occupied Bi-State Sage-grouse (BLM Sensitive Species, and Endangered Species Act Candidate Species) habitat within Fish Lake Valley HMA, with two known active leks. Additionally, public safety issues exist as wild horses often trail across highways to access limited water sources and foraging areas. Wild horses removed from Fish Lake Valley HMA will be transported to the Ridgecrest Regional Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Ridgecrest, Calif.
Vegetation utilization levels and drought stress in both HMAs combined with the lack of reliable water have met Drought Response Triggers that require Drought Response Action (DRA), in the form of a horse gather, which is consistent with alternatives analyzed in the Battle Mountain District Drought Management Environmental Assessment DOI-BLM-NV-B000-2012-0005-EA (Drought EA), dated June 22, 2012. This document can be viewed online at www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/battle_mountain_field.html.
The BLM will use the services of a gather contractor which uses a helicopter to locate and guide wild horses toward a set of corrals.
During the gather it is anticipated that as an act of mercy, some animals with a poor prognosis for survival may need to be humanely euthanized to end their suffering. Without these actions, it is highly likely that more animals, particularly mares and foals, would suffer over time and die if left on the range. “This is a sad situation all the way around,” said BLM, Nevada State Director, Amy Lueders. “We have done our best to help these horses but the combination of no forage and limited water has led to wild horses that simply need more help.”
The BLM will offer public viewing opportunities during the gather operations. Photos and daily updates will also be posted on the Battle Mountain District 2013 Summer Gather website at www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/battle_mountain_field.html. The Decision and Gather Plan for this gather are also available for viewing on the website.
For further information about the gather or to express interest in attending a site visit, please contact David Price, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist at (775) 482-7848 or email David at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, if you are interested in fostering or adopting wild horse orphans encountered during gather operations, please contact David Price.