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The Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 gives BLM the direction for protecting and overseeing wild horses and burros on public lands. In managing these animals, the BLM works to maintain a thriving ecological balance that supports healthy horses on healthy rangelands. Heavy to severe wild horse grazing jeopardizes the health of rangelands, wetlands, wildlife habitats, and ultimately animal health and condition.

In a portion of the Palomino Buttes Herd Management Area, an excessive horse population coupled with severe drought conditions has resulted in an inadequate supply of water and forage to sustain animal health through the remainder of the summer. Approximately 220 horses are planned for removal.

Details of Gather

Helicopter drive-trapping operations will begin August 30, 2021 and are expected to last less than one week, though exact start and end dates will be determined by the contractor’s availability.

The Palomino Buttes HMA is located approximately 15 miles southwest of Burns, in Harney County, Oregon. The HMA is divided by fencing into the Weaver Lake and Palomino Buttes use areas. Currently, all but three water holes within the Palomino Buttes use area have gone dry. Of these three waterholes, it is anticipated that only one location has enough water to last through August. On July 1, 2021, BLM began hauling water to two of these diminishing waterholes in order to sustain animal health until an emergency gather can occur. An estimated 250 horses are watering at these three locations.

Public Observation


The public is welcome to view the Palomino Buttes HMA gather. You must call ahead, by 5 p.m. PST the previous day, to let us know of your planned attendance: 541-573-4519. Observers must attend a pre-viewing briefing at the BLM Burns District Office, 28910 Hwy 20 West in Hines. This will occur each morning prior to departure to the HMA. Observers arriving at the viewing area without first attending the briefing shall not participate in the observation day.

Observation will likely be held daily, on a first come, first served basis. Every effort will be made to accommodate everyone interested each day, however, participation may be limited and/or some days of the gather may not provide a viewing opportunity due to variable circumstances such as moving the trap location (not gathering), no safe area to view activity or disguise vehicles, rainy or windy conditions (not gathering), poor vehicle access, etc.

Notice on the days where no viewing opportunity exists will likely be given on short notice – perhaps the day before or the morning of the gather operation. You may attend multiple, consecutive observation days as long as you are within the first come, first served maximum (if one is set).

The number of media and public in the gather observation site may be limited in order to allow for social distancing. The CDC has offered guidance to help people visiting public lands prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.

Access to and distance from the capture site location will be determined jointly by the Contractor and the BLM's Contracting Officer's Representative prior to gather operations. Safety of the horses, crew and public, is our top priority.


Many horses from the Palomino Buttes gather will be available for adoption beginning in early January 2022. Adoption horses have yet to be selected. The method of adoption (online event, in-person event, first come first serve, etc.) is still under consideration as well.


For more information and to find the progress of the gather and/or whether or not a viewing opportunity exists each day, first check our Social Media sites. Go to our Facebook or Twitter pages—you do not need to have an account on these sites to view the content. You may also call Tara Thissell, Burns District BLM Public Affairs Specialist, at 541-573-4519 or email

The supporting National Environmental Policy Act documents for the Palomino Buttes HMA gather are available at


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Animals gathered: 103 (49 stallions, 36 mares, 18 foals)

Animals shipped: 103 (49 stallions, 36 mares, 18 foals)

Animal deaths: None.

Other: Henneke Body Score of animals gathered today is 3 to 5 (2 horses had BCS of 2 to 2.5); sunny; gather operations ended at 80 degrees Fahrenheit at 2:30 p.m.; one media observer was on site; gather concluded.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Animals gathered: 150 (46 stallions, 67 mares, 37 foals)

Animals shipped: 149 (45 stallions, 67 mares, 37 foals)

Animal deaths:

1 - 13 year old stallion euthanized with pre-existing condition of blindness/eye abnormality (eye completely missing)

Other: Henneke Body Score of animals gathered today is 3-5; sunny with smoke aloft; gather operations ended at 79 degrees Fahrenheit at 2:30 p.m.; five public observers were on site.