Casualties of the Vanishing West

Sunday, 27 December 2015
Written by 
Sonia Luokkala

By Sonia Luokkala, Earth Island Journal

Chief, a Kiger mustang born in the remote wilderness of Utah, lives with 400 other rescued wild horses and burros in a 1,500 acre sanctuary, hundreds of miles from his original home. Years ago the stallion was captured in a round up led by the Bureau of Land Management. After a long helicopter chase, he ended up in a government-run holding facility for years before being adopted by Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, CA. Not all horses rounded up by the BLM are as lucky.

Over the past four decades the BLM has eradicated or moved to holding facilities more than 70 percent of the country’s wild horse population.Over the past four decades the BLM has eradicated or moved to holding facilities more than 70 percent of the country’s wild horse population. (Photo: Bureau of Land Management – Utah)

The majority of captured equines remain stuck for years, if not for the rest of their lives, in cramped holding facilities that are quickly running out of space. As of July 2015 the facilities held 47,000 wild horses, and the BLM’s holding capacity is set at 50,929. Yet the agency is planning to remove another 2,739 wild horses and burros this year at a taxpayer cost of $78 million.

An example of an emergency holding facility for excess mustangs is a cattle feedlot in Scott City, Kansas. In 2014, a BLM contractor leased the feedlot, owned by Beef Belt LLC, to hold 1,900 mares. The horses were transported from pasture to corrals designed for fattening up cattle. Within the first few weeks of their arrival, at least 75 mares died. Mortality reports acquired from the BLM through the Freedom of Information Act show that as of June 2015, 143 more horses had died. The facility is closed to the public.


3 thoughts on “Casualties of the Vanishing West

  1. The BLM injures and kills the horses rounding them up, then warehouses them in “holding facilities,” Including feed lots. Many of the animals perish. The BLM also ILLEGALLY sold almost 1800 horses to rancher Tom Davis, who sent them to slaughter! (By the way, Mr. Davis has business ties to former Secretary of the Interior, Kan Salazar, who comes from a ranching family, who agreed with all the roundups.) So where is the outrage, and the accountability, and the punishment? There will be no justice for those the horses or any of the others who lives are discounted and thrown away. And this rogue agency, just like USFWL, will cave in to the ranchers.

  2. Reblogged this on GarryRogers Nature Conservation and commented:
    Wild horses compete with deer, antelope, and other wildlife. They also compete with cattle, the principal occupant of the western ranges. It is sometimes difficult to manage the invasive species that we’ve introduced over the past 600 years. It is especially difficult when we eliminate potential predators. As things stand, it is impossible to say whether wild horses might merge with native animals/ecosystems if we removed the cattle and allowed wolves and lions to return. I for one would really like to try it.

  3. If we do not take action soon to get livestock off all western public lands, these lands will become a vast Domestic Feed Lot. There are far more cattle out there than any mustangs, but it is clear that the livestock industry does far more ecological damage than wild horses, when one includes the slaughter of millions of wildlife every year, to appease these rancher-moochers, along with the water developments, and water usage by this industry.

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