BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program LogoSeaman Herd Area Emergency Wild Horse Gather

Questions & Answers


What is going on with the horses in the Seaman area?

Severe drought conditions in eastern Nevada have resulted in emergency conditions within the Seaman Herd Area (HA) that threaten wild horse health and well-being.  Wild horses within the Seaman HA range in Henneke body condition score (BCS) from poor (BCS 1.5) to moderately thin (BCS 4).  Wild horses with a BCS of 2 or less are at risk of death if they remain on the range given the current drought conditions. If wild horses are not promptly removed from the area where drought conditions have rapidly become most severe, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) anticipates that individual wild horse body condition will continue to decline and that the most vulnerable horses – mares and foals in particular – will die.

What is the difference between a Herd Area and a Herd Management Area?

Seaman is a Herd Area (HA), not a Herd Management Area (HMA).  The horses found within the HA are animals that historically have been there, but have never been able to be totally removed from the area following the Land Use Plan decision in 2008 to zero out or not actively manage them.  HAs are those geographic areas where wild horses and/or burros were found at the passage of the Wild Horse and Burros Act in 1971.  HMAs are those areas within Herd Areas where the decision has been made, through Land Use Plans, to manage for populations of wild horses and/or burros.  Seaman was determined to be a Herd Area due to the lack of suitable habitat (inadequate forage or water).  HAs, including Seaman, lie within a Mojave Desert transition zone where trees and brush comprise the primary vegetation; relatively few grasses or forbs are present and water is limited.

If this is a Herd Area and not a Herd Management Area, why are there horses there?

Horses found in a Herd Area (HA), not a Herd Management Area (HMA) are traditionally horses that have been there, but have never been able to be totally removed from the area following the Land Use Plan decision in 2008.

How many Seaman horses are suffering from the effects of drought?

About 50.

What has BLM done to help them?

The BLM has been monitoring drought conditions since early summer. On June 26, the BLM fixed a water pipeline to a trough, allowing adequate water for horses in the area; however, the horses would not drink from it.  On July 2, the BLM installed two water troughs alongside the horse trails leading to the Oreana Spring, where 15-30 mares, stallions and foals were in escalating condition due to the drying seeps around the spring, but they won’t drink from them.  The animals are in groups around three isolated seeps.  On July 5, the BLM took out numerous tubs of water and placed them around the seeps, but the horses are not drinking from them.  Hay was spread out in the area and this is not being consumed, either.  Because the horses have not been utilizing this water offered to them their body condition has quickly declined to Henneke Body Condition Scores of 1-3, which is thin to very thin or poor.  The wet mares—those nursing a foal—are in the worst condition.

In an effort to get them water they would drink, the district installed a tank of water with extensive hoses to pipe water to drip into the remote seeps, and they are drinking from the seeps, but it is not enough to sustain the population.

Will the horses be gathered? And how?

Yes.  The BLM will utilize the services of a gather contractor, which uses a helicopter to locate and herd wild horses toward a set of corrals. The pilot is assisted by a ground crew and a domesticated horse that is trained to guide the horses into the corral. The use of helicopters has proven to be a safe, effective and humane means by which to gather wild horses.

How many horses will be gathered? 

About 50.

Why is the BLM using helicopters to gather the wild horses when some are in poor body condition?

The use of a helicopter will provide for a quick means of gathering horses so they can be given the water and feed they need.  Water and bait trapping are not suited to the current conditions for two reasons: firstly, it can take up to several weeks for wild horses to adjust to the corrals and associated water or bait trapping activities. If the adjustment period is too long, it is likely that the area will experience significant horse mortality and many of the remaining horses will be too weak to gather and remove from the range. Also, wild horses within the Seaman HA have become increasingly more timid with all of the human activity and water and bait trapping would be ineffective way to gather wild horses for this area.

Will the horses be returned back to the Herd Area after the gather?

No.  Under the 2008 Ely District RMP the Seaman HA is to be managed for zero (0) wild horses based on analysis of habitat suitability and monitoring data; which indicate insufficient forage, water, cover, and reproductive viability to maintain healthy wild horses and rangelands over the long-term.

What’s the prognosis for the Seaman horses?

Each horse will be evaluated at the time of capture by the on-site APHIS veterinarian.  At that time if the horse is healthy enough, it will be transported to the Delta Horse Facility in Utah.  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 wet mares and foals, would suffer over time and die if left on the range.

Why did BLM let the horses get this bad?

Drought continues to be widespread across the West and has hit Nevada especially hard over the past two years.  As a result there is very little forage and water available to Nevada’s wildlife this summer.  In Lincoln County, the 50 horses that live on the Seaman Herd Area have been depending upon seeps that are unusually dry this year.  As soon as the BLM became aware that horses in the area had an inadequate supply of water, they began hauling water to ensure the horses’ long-term survival.  Water troughs were placed in several locations, but the horses are not accustomed to drinking out of artificial water sources and have been unwilling to drink out of them.  Hoses to place more water into the natural seeps were also placed.  This has helped the situation, but there is not enough water to sustain the horses in good health.

Can I adopt a Seaman horse?

Yes!  For anyone interested in adopting a wild horse, please contact the Palomino Valley National Adoption Center outside of Reno, Nev. at (775) 475-2222.

Can I foster a Seaman foal?

Not this time.  The BLM has an approved list of foster homes.  If you are interested, please contact your local BLM Office and ask a Wild Horse and Burro Specialist to become an approved foster home for future needs. And thanks for your interest.

What will happen to the horses that are removed from the Herd Area?

The horses that are deemed healthy enough for travel by the on-site veterinarian will be transported to the Delta Horse Facility in Utah.  At that time, the horses will be fed and watered in amounts that they can physically handle and be again examined by an on-site veterinarian.  Horses that the veterinarian judges to be in extremely poor physical condition and will not survive, will be humanely euthanized at the trap site, to alleviate further suffering.

Why is the BLM removing horses that appear to be or are in good condition? 

The BLM must gather the horses before their conditions deteriorate due to the lack of water.

Is the BLM removing horses to make room for more cattle grazing?

No. There are no cattle in the Seaman Herd Area.

Is there livestock grazing in this area?

Oreana Spring is located within the Coal Valley Lake Allotment. Season of use for the allotment is from September 1 to May 15 with 4,418 Animal Unit Months (AUMs) permitted. Actual AUMs for last season was 2,412. The most current information for Actual AUMs this season is 883.