Center Content: 

Common Questions from the Public

This Wild Horse and Burro Program receives many questions on a day-to-day basis from members of the public and stakeholders who are engaged in the management of wild horses and burros on public lands. Below are answers to common questions based on e-mails and phone calls that the BLM receives at its National Wild Horse and Burro Information Center: wildhorse@blm.gov or 1-866-468-7826.

QUESTION: What is the BLM's response to a single mare that was  roped as part of the 2017 Cedar Mountain Wild Horse Gather? 

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As part of a wild horse gather and fertility control operation in Utah’s Cedar Mountain Herd Management Area, a single pinto mare was roped on 02-12-17. The mare was part of a larger group of horses that the helicopter contractor was attempting to bring to the trap. The pilot first observed that the mare could not keep up with the other horses, possibly due to older age. Because a stated goal for this gather was to treat up to 200 older mares with fertility control and release them back to the range, BLM decided that another attempt should be made to bring the mare in for treatment. Instead of trying to push her further with the helicopter, the pilot signaled for a rider to help bring the mare to the trap, while the helicopter remained near the mare to prevent escape. As the rider caught the mare, the mare lunged forward and immediately flipped over a barbed wire fence. This occurred below and in front of the public observation area.  The mare's flip over the fence resulted in her being on one side of the fence while the roper was on the other side. After a few moments, the mare turned away from the roper, pulled free, and trotted within 20 feet of the public with the rope still around her neck; she sustained no visible injuries.

Since the incident, we have flown the area where the mare was last seen 5 different days. Though we observed other individuals and pairs of pintos, none were identified to have a rope around the neck. BLM Salt Lake City Field Office will be monitoring the horses in the HMA and will attempt to locate her in the coming weeks and months.

While we are disappointed we have not yet found the mare, we are pleased that this gather, which was part of a sustained fertility control effort ongoing since 2008, moves us forward in our efforts to give the mare and other horses and wildlife she shares the HMA with the best chance to thrive and be healthy in the long-term.  

QUESTION: What is the status of the off-range corral in Scott City, Kansas?

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In March 2014, BLM was informed that an Off-Range Pasture (ORP) contractor in Kansas1 would not renew the existing five-year contract, requiring relocation of 1,893 animals (1,493 mares and 400 geldings separated by fences and natural barriers between two ranches) by June 1, 2014. Due to the concerns regarding the older ages of many of the animals and the stress associated with the relocation, the BLM worked to identify appropriate ORPs near the Kansas location. Sufficient space for the geldings was confirmed between five different ORPs; however space was unavailable to relocate the mares to an existing “mare-only” ORP.2

The BLM acquired a temporary Off-Range Corral (ORC) in Scott City, Kansas to accommodate the mares with the full intention of placing the mares in a new ORP when available. The mares were moved to the new ORC location in June 2014.

A higher than expected mortality pattern was observed among the mares relocated to the Scott City ORC. The deaths that occurred from July through September of 2014 were attributed to factors related to the transition from the ORP to the ORC environment. Additional contributing factors to the mortality rate were age, dental abnormalities in many horses and some initial over‐ crowding at the feed bunks most likely resulting in some horses not receiving the protein and energy required to support their needs. The BLM made adjustments and the animals began to acclimate and show improvements in their overall health, which resulted in a dramatic decrease in the monthly mortality rate. Eventually the mortality rate slowed to what is expected in a population such as this where the majority of the relocated animals were 11-20 years old. The total mortality between June 2014 and October 2016 was 213 of the 1,493 mares.3

Once BLM acquired additional ORP space, the mares were relocated to new ORPs between May and October 2016 without incident or fatalities.

(1) A recent non-BLM social media post listed Robert Hughes as the contractor associated with the Kansas ORP that did not renew their contract. Mr. Hughes does not have a contract with the BLM that is associated with any ORPs located in KS.
(2) The BLM gelds all stallions prior to relocating to ORPs. There is always the potential for a stallion to be missed in the process, etc.; therefore, the BLM normally contracts for all-gelding and all-mare ORPs. Otherwise, the contractor must demonstrate their property has physical/natural barriers to keep mares and geldings separate before the BLM will approve them to hold both genders.
(3) A recent non-BLM social media post listed that 191 animals died from 7/7/14 – 6/30/15, but the actual number was 168.

QUESTION: What is the BLM's response to the recommendation made by the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board on September 9, 2016, to sell without limitation or humanely euthanize excess horses and burros in BLM's off-range corrals and pastures that are deemed "unadoptable"?

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ANSWER: The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is an independent panel comprised of members of the public that make recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management regarding its management of wild horses and burros.  The BLM is committed to having healthy horses on healthy rangelands.  We will continue to care for and seek good homes for animals that have been removed from the range.  The BLM does not and will not euthanize healthy animals. The agency continues to seek new and better tools for managing the nation's quickly expanding population of wild horses. There are nearly 70,000 wild horses and burros on public lands in the West -- three times the recommended level -- and nearly 50,000 additional horses and burros that have been removed from the range and are available for adoption. The cost of caring for each animal that goes unadopted can be nearly $50,000. 

We encourage those who might be interested in adopting one of these incredible animals to call 1-866-4MUSTANGS.

QUESTION: As of July 1, 2016, what is the current status on shade at Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Center (PVC) outside of Reno, Nevada?

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ANSWER: As part of the annual maintenance and repair efforts at the Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Center (PVC), the BLM has upgraded two existing and installed four new shade structures in pens housing wild horses and burros.  In addition, the BLM plans to purchase and install new structures to provide shade and shelter from the wind in four perimeter pens capable of holding up to 500 horses.  Beyond these installations, the BLM is committed to working with its partners to pursue further renovations at the PVC.

New 8x4 ft. plywood shade structures recently installed at PVC.
New 8x4 ft. plywood shade structures recently installed at PVC.
More shade structures that have been recently upgraded after inclement weather damaged the material.
More shade structures recently upgraded after inclement weather damaged the material.

 

 

 

 

BLM upgraded shade structures to replace material that was damaged by weather. 
BLM upgraded shade structures to replace material that was damaged by weather. 

 

QUESTION: What is the status of an effort by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service to control the herd population at Wheeler Pass/Cold Creek (Nevada) through use of the contraceptive vaccine PZP?

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ANSWER: The U.S. Forest Service and the BLM continue to work on a collaborative herd management area plan (HMAP) for the Spring Mountain Complex outside of Las Vegas. The development of the plan has taken longer than expected. Both the BLM and USFS have collaborated with the Spring Mountain Alliance in the development of the proposed HMAP and will continue to do so. The draft proposed plan has several alternatives, which include working with volunteer groups to administer the fertility-control vaccine PZP to reduce population growth and carrying out small bait-trap removals and adoptions to maintain the appropriate management level for the project area.

QUESTION: Has the BLM issued new contracts for helicopter gathers of wild horses and burros?

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ANSWER: Yes, the BLM, after careful consideration, has issued three new helicopter contracts for wild horse and burro gathers. The contracts have gone to Cattoor Livestock Roundup, Inc., Nephi, Utah; Sampson Livestock, Meadow, Utah; and Sun J Livestock, Inc., Vernal, Utah.  For the first time, Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program (CAWP) standards are incorporated into the agency's helicopter gather contracts.  The CAWP standards, among other things, specify capture techniques; design standards for trap and corral facilities; requirements for vehicles used to transport animals; handling techniques; stipulations for the care of young, weak, or debilitated animals; and requirements for feeding and watering.  The advantages of three contractors (rather than two, as has been the practice) are: increased bidding competition (and thus lower costs) for each gather job; greater capability for removals and population-growth suppression work; and meeting contingencies that may arise.

QUESTION: Is the BLM looking into a wild burro-related partnership that would benefit small-scale farmers in Guatemala?

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ANSWER: Yes, the BLM, which is dealing with limits on its off-range holding capacity for wild horses and burros, is exploring the feasibility of a wild burro-related partnership with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and Heifer International.  Heifer International is a highly regarded, not-for-profit organization that provides education, tools, and livestock to poor communities and small-scale farmers.  The prospective partnership would provide gentled, sale-eligible wild burros under BLM management to assist communities and farmers in Guatemala, where burros are prized working animals and expensive for families in poverty to buy.  If the partnership were to move forward, the gentled burros would help carry water, crops, and other supplies.  Heifer International would provide animal care training, regular animal welfare checks, and program evaluation to make sure the burros are kept safe and healthy.  When determining where to place animals, Heifer makes an assessment to ensure that the recipients have adequate resources to care for the animal. 

QUESTION: Does the BLM ever move animals from a long-term pasture to another holding facility? If so, why? (July 2014)

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Answer: Yes, BLM moves animals from long-term pastures to other facilities if the long-term pasture can no longer accommodate the animals.

Examples of when this would occur include:  

  1. If a contractor sells the ranch and the new owner does not want to manage for wild    horses.
  2. If a contractor has lands recovering from drought and wants to remove grazing animals or decrease their numbers to aid in drought recovery.
  3. If market conditions change in the livestock sector such that the contractor identifies a more lucrative use for the land.

Depending on the capacity of the facility needing to relocate animals, the number of animals being relocated can range from a few hundred to a few thousand head.

The majority of animals that have not been adopted are held on long-term pastures. Long-term pastures provide a free-roaming environment for the animals and it costs less for the taxpayer to house animals on long-term pastures than at short-term holding facilities. With long-term and short-term facilities nearly filled to capacity, the BLM is currently seeking new short-term and long-term holding facilities.

QUESTION: What is the situation regarding wind breaks at the Rock Springs, Wyoming, wild horse holding facility?

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ANSWER: Wild horses at the Rock Springs holding facility are provided with man-made and natural wind breaks.  In contrast, in Wyoming's on-range Herd Management Areas, there are not many natural wind breaks because of the desert terrain.  On-range wild horses huddle together in groups to protect one another from the elements, just as they do in corralled environments.

QUESTION: What is the overall condition of the horses at the Rock Springs holding facility?

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ANSWER: Animals held in the Rock Springs wild horse holding facility are healthy and hardy. They are provided humane treatment that includes veterinary care and daily feed with access to fresh water sources.  Hay provided at the facility is very high in nutritive value, and the wild horses there typically gain weight and their body condition improves.  A wild horse will eat 20 pounds of hay every day.  Because of limited water on the range, wild horses must eat snow and ice to stay hydrated in extreme weather conditions.  The Rock Springs wild horse holding facility provides plenty of fresh, clean water, which enables the wild horses to be fully hydrated. 

QUESTION: What is the BLM’s response to allegations that there are signs of health issues and neglect at the Palomino Valley Center (PVC) outside Reno, Nevada, and that funding reductions have affected the level of care at PVC? (May 15, 2013) 

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ANSWER: The BLM staff and the attending veterinarian closely monitor the health of the wild horses and burros under their care and take this responsibility very seriously. Budget sequestration has not affected the level of care provided to the animals at PVC or staff resources available to care for the animals. The health issues noted by the public—strangles, ringworm and warts—are caused by a bacteria, fungus and virus, respectively, that are very common in large groups of young or immunologically naive horses that are exposed to these infectious problems for the first time.  These are not signs of abuse or neglect. 
  
Respiratory problems, including strangles, are evaluated by the veterinarian as they arise. Depending on the severity of the infection, individual animals may be treated, but much like the common cold, many of these conditions have no prescribed drug treatment and need to run their course. Similarly, ringworm and warts on horses are largely self-limiting problems that resolve over time as animals’ immune systems recognize and respond to the causative agents. Typically, individual animals will show signs of these conditions for 3 to 6 weeks, and in a large facility like PVC it may take four to six months for these conditions to run their course through the overall population. Treating individual wild animals housed in a group setting can increase stress levels and the risk of injury for all of the animals involved. Unless a specific treatment is warranted, it is often not in the animals’ best interest to isolate and treat every affected animal. These situations are assessed on an ongoing basis by BLM staff with the valuable input of the attending veterinarian to identify the best course of action for each circumstance.

To deal with the recent health issues, a complete quarantine of PVC has not been needed. If animals are showing clinical signs of infectious respiratory disease, PVC routinely restricts the movement of animals out of the facility. Such restrictions were in place this spring while the facility managed the strangles cases at the facility. Based on the assessment and recommendation of the attending veterinarian, ringworm and warts are handled in a similar manner. Horses with these conditions may be shipped to another BLM facility if, in the opinion of the attending veterinarian, they meet the requirements for transportation.  If present, these conditions are brought to the attention of adopters during the adoption process. It is not BLM policy to trim animals only prior to adoption and the allegation that this is done at PVC is incorrect. The attending veterinarian monitors the condition of the animals, including their need for hoof care, on an ongoing basis.  One effect of government sequestration was a reduction in weekend public visitation days at PVC.  PVC continues to be open on the first Saturday of every month from 8 AM to 12 PM.

QUESTION: What is the BLM's response to allegations regarding wild horse sales to a South Dakota long-term pasture contractor, known as Spur Livestock, in 2008? (Updated September 2014)

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ANSWER: The BLM cares deeply about the well-being of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range, and takes seriously all accusations of the slaughter of wild horses or burros.  These accusations were thoroughly investigated and the case was presented to the U. S. Department of Justice who issued a letter of declination. The case has been closed.

QUESTION: What is the BLM's response to allegations that gather contractor, Sun J, did not meet the legal requirement for helicopter experience rounding up wild horses?

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ANSWER: The gather solicitation in question required the contract bidder to provide the degree of overall experience of the organization and proposed key personnel in similar projects during the period of calendar year 2007 to the present. In addition, the bidder had to provide documentation of overall experience resulting in the capture of a minimum of 3,000 wild horses and/or burros.

Sun J interpreted the solicitation to mean their primary pilot had to have helicopter experience in gathering 3,000 wild horses and submitted a waiver.  However, Sun J only had to show that their organization, not a single pilot, had gathered 3,000 wild horses. In addition, the primary and secondary pilots each had to have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flying experience in similar projects, which they did. 

QUESTION:  What is the BLM's reaction to allegations regarding horse sales to Tom Davis of Colorado, as reported by Pro Publica?

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ANSWER: The BLM condemns any sale of wild horses for slaughter.  We care deeply about the well-being of wild horses, both on and off the range, and it has been (and remains) the policy of the BLM not to sell or send wild horses or burros to slaughter.  We take seriously all accusations of the slaughter of wild horses or burros.  The Office of the Inspector General at the Department of the Interior has initiated an investigation into the situation and will work in conjunction with the State of Colorado throughout its investigation.  We look forward to the results of that inquiry.  Anybody that is found to have violated the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act should be held accountable.

QUESTION: Does the BLM count or treat identical or similar comments received during its environmental-review process as a single comment?

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ANSWER: The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has established regulations concerning the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, which Federal agencies such as the BLM are required to follow.  CEQ also provides guidance for interpreting NEPA regulations.  One such memorandum, “Forty Most Asked Questions Concerning CEQ's National Environmental Policy Act Regulations,” can be accessed at http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/ceq_regulations/guidance.html, where question 29a addresses the subject of comment responses:
 
If a number of comments are identical or very similar, agencies may group the comments and prepare a single answer for each group.  Comments may be summarized if they are especially voluminous…
 
All substantive comments are an important part of the BLM’s NEPA process.
 
Substantive comments do one or more of the following:

  • question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of information in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Environmental Assessment (EA);
  • question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of, methodology for, or assumptions used for the environmental analysis;
  •  present new information relevant to the analysis;
  • present reasonable alternatives other than those analyzed in the EIS or EA; and
  • cause changes or revisions in one or more of the alternatives.

It should be noted that the BLM, which welcomes public input, is not required to respond to non-substantive comments, such as those merely expressing approval or disapproval of a proposal without reason, as the opportunity to comment is not a voting exercise.

QUESTION:  How do I read the freeze mark on an adopted wild horse or burro?

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ANSWER:  To learn how to read the freeze mark, click here. If you still cannot read the freeze mark, please contact the BLM’s National WH&B Information Center at 866-468-7826 or e-mail your question to wildhorse@blm.gov.  If you can submit a photo of the freeze mark, that will assist us in providing you with accurate information.

QUESTION:  I have acquired a BLM-titled wild horse or burro, but do not have any  paperwork.  I would like to confirm its title status and learn more about the animal.  Where do I start?

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ANSWER:  Please contact the BLM’s National WH&B Information Center at 866-468-7826 or e-mail your question to wildhorse@blm.gov.  We will need the freeze mark information to confirm the title status and history of the animal.

QUESTION:  I have acquired a BLM-titled wild horse or burro.  I would like to have the title transferred into my name.  What do I do?

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ANSWER:  The BLM cannot reissue the title to a new owner; however, the BLM can send you an official letter providing the title date and history of the animal.  Please contact the BLM’s National WH&B Information Center at 866-468-7826 or e-mail your question to wildhorse@blm.gov.  The Center can connect you with the BLM office of jurisdiction that will send you the official letter.