BLM Admits Helicopter Stampede Caused Wild Horse Deaths, Refuses Outside Observers in Nevada Census

By Steven Long

HOUSTON, (Horseback) – The federal Bureau of Land Management, under siege by press and public for it’s handling of offshore drilling, again has proven it is an agency with a tin ear when it comes to public relations.

With 150 horses and foals now dead in the wake of the most deadly “gather” in BLM history, the agency continues with an apparent government cover-up of the number of horses remaining in Nevada’s remote Calico Mountains.

The BLM refused to allow outside observers on an equine census of the area in late June, according to national spokesman Tom Gorey.

It even covered up the fact that a census was being taken at all until after

the fact, despite pleas from wild horse activists to be allowed to go along on census flights as independent observers.

Last week, in a detailed report of an independent fly-over of the Calico “gather” area acclaimed naturalist Craig Downer saw only sparse evidence of any remaining horses on hundreds of thousands of acres of BLM land. He also recorded thousands of cattle.

Downer’s report was first published by Horseback Online and still can be read here   in its entirety.

“The Calico Complex aerial census was completed Sunday and we expect to

issue a news release on the results shortly (within the next day or so),” Gorey said. “No third parties/independent observers were allowed to ride in the aircraft conducting the survey.”

Gorey cited existing BLM policy for the agency refusal to allow outside observers on the observation flights.

“This is in accordance with existing BLM policy and is done for reasons of safety and liability. Additionally, observers must be trained. Accuracy of the counts strongly depends on the skill of the observer and is affected by the ruggedness of the terrain and the presence of vegetation cover.”

Downer has spent decades observing wild horse in their natural habitat, both from the air, and from the ground.

BLM personnel have a long history of mathematical errors in their reports as cited in several Horseback stories last year.

Ironically, other government agencies routinely allow the press and other observers on flights, including in war zones where the media is often imbedded with soldiers, sailors, marines, and airborne troops in combat. The independent observers are acknowledged to deliver accurate reports, even in the stressful environment of war with little or no training before an engagement.

Gorey acknowledged a large number of deaths came from horses trying to escape a roaring helicopter chase by a Utah contractor hired by the BLM.

“Yes, the BLM acknowledges that at gathers some fatalities directly result from the horses being driven by the helicopter,” Gorey said. “The direct mortality rate resulting from helicopter-driven gathers is usually less than one percent.”

 The BLM declines to acknowledge what is a statistically acceptable death rate on its roundups of wild horses. The Calico roundup took place in the dead of winter in rocky mountainous terrain where horses were run over miles and miles of rugged wilderness.

Gorey detailed the carnage.

“Seven died or were euthanized at the gather site; 101 have died or were euthanized at the Fallon facility. The BLM does not keep a count of miscarriages, but we did note in the daily reports those miscarriages that we observed.”

Two foals died after their hooves were run off as they tried to escape the roaring helicopter.

“Two foals died as you described,” Gorey said, “No other horses died of hoof abscesses.”

In the Calico “gather,” something went dreadfully wrong.

“In 2009, the number of direct fatalities (out of more than 7,500 horses gathered) was 0.53 percent,” Gorey said. “Some indirect mortality also occurs, usually associated with older horses in poor to very poor condition when gathered. These already weakened horses, many of which would likely die on the range if not gathered, are examined by staff professionals and veterinarians and are euthanized if they are unlikely to improve or do not respond to treatment.”

The government spokesman painted a benign word portrait of humane euthanasia of geriatric  horses. Yet the BLM reports published on the Internet records what amounts to wholesale slaughter of wild horses from Calico in which some were routinely put down by government vets, one of whom was unlicensed to practice in Nevada.

Photo “Freedom” by Craig Downer

12 comments for “BLM Admits Helicopter Stampede Caused Wild Horse Deaths, Refuses Outside Observers in Nevada Census

  1. LeeAnne
    July 9, 2010 at 1:15 am

    The BLM is costing the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars with archaic programs that need to be stopped. The grazing program amounts to subsidizing ranching and not even 3% of US beef comes from the range. Leases are given to millionaires and people who don’t even live in the USA. Small family ranches are one thing but big agribusiness is who is benefiting the most. The rate for grazing a cow/calf unit on public land is the same as it was in the 1800’s. How can anyone think that is reasonable?

    The wild horse and burro program costs millions and is for nothing at all except to placate the livestock lobby. Refuges set aside for mustangs are being emptied and cows allowed in. We, The People have spoken time and time again that we want mustangs and wolves for that matter on our wild lands but the BLM continues to bend and even break the law to remove them. The horses being held in the Midwest should be returned to the refuges and round ups need to stop. There are millions of cows on public land a few thousand horses. Removing the horses has no effect on the range it is cows that destroy riparian areas and of course mining but that is another story.

    Public lands do not belong to a few, they belong to everyone and managing them to lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year and to kill predators and remove wild horses is reprehensible and cannot go on. Rounding up horses when there are young foals on the ground is so morally wrong I cannot believe the people involved sleep at night. More than one hundred have died this year alone due to round ups. Shame on the BLM and anyone involved.

    Write and call your Congresspeople, Senators and the White House!

  2. sue
    July 1, 2010 at 2:42 am

    Its all very sickening to think of the disrespect humans have for Gods creatures. They have the right to live free , how dare humans decide thier fate. If they werent suppose to be here then they wouldnt be here. This country is cursed and if we dont stop what we are doing its going to get so much worse than it is now and by the time we want to do somthing about it ,it will be too late…

  3. kate bishop
    June 30, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Pull the old horses off the range just to euthanize them. What a great idea! Let their last moments on earth be that of terror and fear. And all with our tax dollars!

  4. Kimberly
    June 30, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    I forwarded this article to Sue Catoor- she & her husband are the contractors with the helicopter…let’s see what (empty, shallow thoughts)she has to reveal in her defense.

  5. Desert Duns
    June 30, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I have a wild born Sulphur Stallion, he was gathered when he was only 10 months old with his mother by his side. She was released to back to make more beautiful Zebra Dun Sulphur Mustang babies. My stallion is STILL afraid of helicopters. When they fly over my ranch, he runs and hides in the trees!

    #1) There is no need to gather the horses in the first place.
    #2) There is no need to use aircraft.
    #3) There is no need to lie about what you have done.
    #4) I have NEVER trusted the BLM. I have lived in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. And now the BLM wear GUNS.

  6. Jen
    June 30, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Heart breaking and enraging at the same time. Who does the BLM have to report to ? Who is their boss?? The President?? We need to gather momentum and get with the President on this already… he will getthings done.

    • Gayle
      July 4, 2010 at 12:55 am

      It seems the President knows the goings on of the BLM,
      he is their Boss.

      Their orders come from him.

      He SUPPOSEDLY was also anti horse slaughter while
      running for Presidency.

      Another misleading statement from Obama.

      He has been asked to comment on the WH & B issue
      and there is no comment.

      That says a lot of our President, huh?

  7. June 30, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    This is not only sad but murder, whatever BLM’s justification for that kind of roundup is so weak they should be ashamed. Whoever flew that copter should have nightmares of their killing.

    Please, save all the wild horses, we are ALL here for a reason.

  8. Sharon
    June 30, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    I totally agree that is is ‘sad’, Teddi. However, I do NOT agree with you when you say ‘some fatalities can be expected’. There should be NO fatalities because these roundups should not be happening AT ALL.

  9. leslie peeples
    June 30, 2010 at 5:26 am

    There is no need for any fatalities in gathering horses, it can be done by individuals (unemployed/now employed) using bait trapping.
    The bottom line is that the BLM sees Americas wild Horses as vermin and a few hundreds or thousand dead here or there, aah, no matter!

  10. Teddi Young
    June 30, 2010 at 3:49 am

    How sad. Yes, some fatalities can be expected with these round-ups, but, still, how sad….

    • June 30, 2010 at 3:25 pm

      Yes, “some fatalities are to be expected,” that’s why they need to step back for just a moment and evaluate OTHER management options!

      Also they MUST allow independent observers since the BLM has proven time and time again they we cannot trust them for accuracy.

Comments are closed.