WARNING: Viewer discretion is advised when viewing the video posted below.
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Video obtained by the 8 News Now Investigators shows a wild horse suffer with a serious injury while it was in distress during a government-funded operation.
The individual recording the video is heard weeping as she watched the incident unfold. She is a volunteer with “Wild Horse Education” and has been documenting two operations currently underway to capture wild horses in eastern Nevada.
Laura Leigh who heads “Wild Horse Education,” told the 8 News Now Investigators that the horse broke its neck. The animal is seen on video trying to escape from a pen after a helicopter chased the wild horses to push them into an area for capture. The injury appears to happen immediately in contact with a fence. Leigh also provided photos of the horse initially trying to hide her family in trees.
The Bureau of Land Management began two roundups on July 9. 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.
As of July 16, the BLM reported that eleven horses had died. 916 wild horses were captured, according to the agency.
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’s method of controlling the population, especially with the use of helicopters is inhumane.
Leigh called the treatment of the wild horses abusive and demanded that the BLM stop the roundups or at least suspend them in part due to the mid-July heat index.
“If you’re gonna remove them, remove them in the Fall and do it humanely,” Leigh said.
The 8 News Now Investigators previously aired a video from the first week of the operation showing a man on horseback and helicopter chasing a horse with a broken leg. The horse also had tried to escape resulting in the injury. Leigh said that the horse was shot after suffering for approximately 30 minutes.
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.”
After an inquiry from the 8 News Now Investigators, a spokesperson for the BLM Nevada office sent the following statement on Friday:
“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. “
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.