SACRAMENTO (CN) – Uncle Sam wants to round up every single one of more than 2,000 wild horses and burros on 800,000 acres on the California-Nevada border and “warehouse” them in the Midwest, horse-lovers say in a federal complaint.
In Defense of Animals and Dreamcatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary claim the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to remove the mustangs from the Twin Peaks area and condemn them to “zoo-like conditions” in the Midwest is illegal.
The roundup on 790,000 acres is scheduled to start Aug. 9, and to continue for 45 to 60 days.
Agents on horseback, in motorized vehicles or in helicopters are to “indiscriminately chase every wild horse” on the range and round up all of the 2,300 wild horses and 210 wild burros. The BLM wants to sterilize about 200 wild horses and re-release into the wild, but – contradicting itself – the agency also claims it will leave 448 horses alone.
The BLM does not know what the effects of sterilization may be, nor is it honest about the death rates in roundups, which were as high as 5 percent in the most recent Nevada roundup, according to the complaint.
When mustangs become aware of plans to cage them, they will “throw themselves against the panels out of fear or in a desperate attempt to escape,” sometimes breaking their necks, the groups say.
Others suffer from “capture myopathy” – depression from loss of their freedom and separation from their herd.
And, the groups say, the BLM denies the harmful role played by other livestock, which inflict more harm by grazing than horses do.
The plaintiffs claim the BLM is not legally authorized to hold the horses, the groups claim, though a federal judge ruled in 2009 that the agency should be allowed to hold corralled wild horses indefinitely, in lieu of a better alternative.
The horse-lovers say the BLM plan violates the National Environmental Policy Act and the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which manages wild horses as “living symbols” of the “pioneer spirit.”
Mustangs, or feral horses, are descended from horses the Spanish brought to North America. Some people claim the horse is a reintroduced species in North America, as it lived on this continent for millions of years before going extinct a few thousand years ago. Prehistoric Americans may have hunted them to death.
The plaintiffs want the roundup, and the sterilizations, enjoined. They are represented by Stuart Gross with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy in Burlingame.