BLM Begins Wild Horse and Burro Round Up - 8 News NOW

Edward Lawrence, Reporter

BLM Begins Wild Horse and Burro Round Up

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Helicopter used in wild horse roundup. (KLAS-TV file photo) Helicopter used in wild horse roundup. (KLAS-TV file photo)
Starving wild horse and foal in BLM holding pen. (KLAS-TV file photo) Starving wild horse and foal in BLM holding pen. (KLAS-TV file photo)
The government hired a herding firm from Utah to collect the animals. There were only wild burros in the area The government hired a herding firm from Utah to collect the animals. There were only wild burros in the area

The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service have started rounding up wild horses and burros from the Spring Mountains Wednesday.

The government says it's necessary because there are too many animals and not enough food. But wild horse advocates hope to put a stop to the roundup.

Channel 8 Eyewitness News reporter Edward Lawrence and photojournalist David Suarez was the only television crew to go on the round up. They started out very early Thursday morning driving north on Highway 95 and well into the desert off of State Route 160. 

The government hired a herding firm from Utah to collect the animals. There were only wild burros in the area. Once spotted by helicopter, packs of burros were driven toward a cattle net leading to a horse trailer.

Flying just feet off the ground the pilot steered the burros toward the right direction. When the animals came close enough to the fence, cowboys holding sticks with white noisemakers took over. The burros were then herded toward the horse trailer.

Kirsten Cannon, BLM spokeswoman, said, "There is less than one-percent chance of an animal being injured or killed on a gather."

On three occasions Eyewitness News watched burros break away from the herd.  The cowboys used rope to stop them and guide them back. Burros can still be stubborn once they are contained. One burro kept banging its head against the railing.

The noisemaker didn't work, so the cowboy had to kick the burro so it would join the rest. It's all necessary to save the wild animals, according to Kirsten Cannon.

"If we were never able to gather the horses or remove excess animals, there would be so many, they would actually starve to death," the BLM spokeswoman said.

Not every burro fought back. Those that did eventually calmed down. Once the burros were locked into the horse trailer they remained calm. The next stop for them is a temporary corral and then onto the adoption center.

Over the next two weeks all 1,200 wild horses and burros in the Spring Mountains will be captured. Once they are tagged the BLM will re-release 112 horses and 121 burros to roam from Red Rock to an area near Pahrump.

Cannon says it will be a large enough group to sustain a community, but small enough to allow them to eat. "This is the safest way to maintain them rather than have them lose so much body condition that they are starving to death," She said. 

Only the horses returned to the wild will be given birth control. The Bureau of Land Management hopes to limit the birth rate to 5-percent per year to hold off the need for another round up for at least five years.

The round up costs between 300 and 400-thousand dollars. It's being paid with funds from BLM land auctions. The re-released horses are being given birth control to limit the population growth. Land auction money also paid for the treatment.

So far, 125 wild burros have been captured.

The wild horses and burros not released will be sent to adoption centers. Each one will be marked to let slaughterhouses know the animals are off limits.

Email your comments to Reporter Edward Lawrence.

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