Wild mares and their foals photo/ Carrol Abel
Bureau of Land Management has delayed another Nevada wild horse roundup. A preliminary Environmental Assessment issued December 28 announced that 600 wild horses were to be removed from the Eagle Herd Management Area (HMA) on the Nevada / Utah border beginning February 14. Over 9,000 public comments were logged at BLM's Schell field office in Ely during the 30 day public comment period allowed. Officials published a news release Saturday saying, "... there is not adequate time to safely conduct the gather prior to the beginning of foaling season."
Since foaling season was certainly a known factor in the planning and environmental assessment phases of the capture plan, the announcement to delay the roundup has left some people wondering if fatalities in the recently completed and highly controversial Calico Complex roundup played a role in the newest decision.
Two of the foals captured at Calico were euthanized due to multiple hoof sloughs caused by the roundup. Though they were given veterinarian care, their hooves separated and euthanizing was the only humane choice that remained. Advocates claim the injuries were caused by running the foals over rocky terrain for 10 miles or more. Many of the wild mares involved in the Calico Complex north of Reno lost the foals they carried late into their pregnancies. Management at the Indian Lakes Road holding facility in Fallon were aware of 20 - 30 spontaneous abortions after the mares were gathered. Animal welfare advocates concerned by the midwinter roundup blame the loss of these foals on the physical and mental stress created by roundup activities. In all, 70 horses died during the Calico roundup. About 60 of the deaths will not be included in roundup statistics.
Chris Hanefeld, spokesperson for BLM's Schell field office, explained the decision by saying, "We received a lot of comments. We didn't think we could get the decision out and really have sufficient time to gather without going into foaling season. It's just a good, wise, prudent decision. Out here, foaling season starts the first part of March."
In response to questions regarding wild mares stressed by roundup activities during the final weeks of pregnancy, Ben Noyes, BLM wild horse and burro specialist, explained, "Typically that HMA, especially, is a little later on due to weather and climate. It stays pretty cold. The mares tend to breed up a little later. Most of the time they don't really even start foaling until May or June. Most mares out there are starting to get a little bit heavy but they're not extremely close right now." No explanation was offered in regard to inconsistent information on when the foaling season actually begins.
BLM statistics reveal that 14 deaths occurred in the February 2007 roundup of the Eagle HMA. The number of aborted pregnancies were unavailable at the time of publishing as these statistics have not been made public in past years. Chris Hanefeld says the reported numbers are incorrect. "There weren't nearly that many." said Hanefeld.
Hanefeld summed up the situation by saying, "So originally, the two week window, we were just looking to gather for the two week period figuring February 14 we were still really good to go. We'd be out of there well ahead of any foaling season. And, again, we received a lot of comments and its not a decision that you want to rush."
Los Angeles horseman, Justin DiPego says, "Based on the number of deaths of mares and foals in the last gather, and it wasn't even foaling season, it makes perfect sense they would postpone the next one."
Horses just outside the Eagle HMA will not likely have their freedom for long. An announcement is expected by early next week to remove fifty horses they say are threatening the safety of motorists along a nearby highway. The main herd will face roundup again when foaling season is over and a second Environmental Analysis is completed.
Note of interest: The Eagle HMA capture plan comment period ended January 28. In contrast, a decision was made on the Calico roundup within 8 days after closure of the public comment period. Over 10,000 comments had been logged. The final decision - "Head em up, move em out".