Wild-Horse Roundup Plans Anger Advocates

By Martin Griffith
Associated Press
Sunday, December 14, 2008

RENO, Nev. -- Wild-horse advocates are up in arms over new plans, announced by federal land managers, to conduct emergency roundups of nearly 2,000 more mustangs from the range in Nevada at a time when government holding pens are already overflowing.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has started removing 1,480 horses south of Battle Mountain and plans to begin removing 450 more in January south of Gerlach, agency spokesman JoLynn Worley said.

Without the actions, she said, the animals could starve this winter because of extremely limited forage. The horses will be sent to a BLM coral just north of Reno to be readied for adoption or long-term holding.

"Once the snow gets on the ground, it'll be even more difficult for the horses to find what limited forage is out there," Worley said.

But horse advocates sharply criticized the agency, saying the roundups will exacerbate a problem that has led to nearly as many horses being kept in long-term corrals as remain on the range.

The problem has become so great that BLM officials have considered for the first time euthanizing some wild horses as a way to reduce the populations in the future.

"We shouldn't be rounding up any more horses until we resolve the issue of tens of thousands of horses that already have been rounded up and are in holding pens," said Matt Rossell, outreach coordinator for the San Rafael, Calif.-based animal rights group In Defense of Animals.

The two roundups will reduce the number of wild horses that roam the open range in 10 Western states to about 31,000. The BLM has set a target "appropriate management level" of horses at 27,000 in the wild.

Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for the Washington-based Animal Welfare Institute, disputed the agency's conclusion that an emergency exists.

"They're not starving, and they're using it as an excuse to remove more horses," Heyde said. "They can survive if we can keep our little fingers off them."

Worley said leaving the herds alone could cause large die-offs and damage rangelands.

"It would basically be a natural disaster," she said.

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