LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – At least twelve wild horses have died during two ongoing operations by the federal government to capture wild horses in eastern Nevada.
Groups in opposition to the roundups have argued that the treatment of wild horses is inhumane and abusive.
“Wild Horse Education” has documented both roundups which began on July 9. Laura Leigh who heads the group has demanded that the roundups stop or be suspended due to the triple-digit temperatures in the desert heat.
“If you’re gonna remove them, remove them in the Fall and do it humanely,” Leigh said.
Video provided to the 8 News Now Investigators showed one horse trying to escape from a pen after being captured, limp with a broken leg, and getting chased by both a man on horseback and a helicopter.
The horse was chased for approximately 30 minutes before he was shot, according to Leigh.
A second clip showed a foal in a pen. Leigh said the horse was found dead the next day.
A third clip showed a horse in distress during the roundup.
As a result, the horse appeared to run into a fence causing a major injury. The volunteer recording the video is heard weeping. The horse died.
The additional video showed horses falling as they tried to run from a helicopter.
The BLM’s Elko and Ely offices were handling the operations. The BLM hired a government contractor to gather and remove more than 3,100 wild horses, according to the agency’s website.
Up to 15 horses would be treated with the birth control method “GonaCon Equine” and then released back to the range, the website stated.
The BLM has continuously claimed that the wild horse population needs to be controlled to protect public lands, restore ecological balance, and “multiple-use relationship on public lands.”
Critics have argued that the government is appeasing ranchers for their cattle.
As of July 19, the BLM reported capturing 1,173 horses.
Out of the 12 deaths reported by the BLM, most of them were listed as acute meaning that they happened as a result of the roundup.
The 8 News Now Investigators reached out to the U.S. Department of the Interior to request an interview with Secretary Deb Haaland.
“We don’t have anything to add from the Department and respectfully will decline an interview with the Secretary,” a spokesperson wrote in an email.
Horses that survive the roundups will be transported to a facility where they will be checked by a veterinarian and prepared for adoption, according to the BLM.
Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus introduced a bill in 2022 to ban the use of helicopters. In May, the “Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act” was introduced into Congress marking the first step of the legislative process.
On Friday, the day after the 8 News Now Investigators aired the video from the roundup, Rep. Titus issued the following statement:
“This latest instance of BLM mistreatment of Nevada’s wild horses is tragic. A horse with a broken leg was chased in the sweltering heat by a helicopter and had to be put down. My legislation, the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act of 2023, would end these brutal roundup practices and more humanely manage the herds. We need to pass it now.”
Nevada has the largest population of wild horses.
The 8 News Now Investigators reached out to the Bureau of Land Management. A spokesperson for the BLM Nevada office sent the following statement:
“The BLM prioritizes the well-being and humane care of all wild horses during gather operations. The temperature and other factors are constantly monitored and reviewed throughout the day to ensure animal safety.
If temperatures exceed what is healthy and safe for the animals, the BLM will pause gathering operations. In addition, veterinarians are on-site to assess and monitor animal conditions and consult with BLM regarding the health and well-being of the wild horses. “