LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A total of 21 wild horses have died in a two-part roundup in eastern Nevada, and activists have sued in federal district court hoping to stop “unnecessary death and suffering.”

Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education ( said the lawsuit came after “numerous attempts” to engage the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

“A roundup in eastern Nevada has gathered international outrage after a palomino stallion attempted escape, suffered a catastrophic compound fracture and was then chased by helicopter and horseback wranglers for over 30 minutes before being shot,” Leigh said in a Wednesday news release.

“The golden stallion had been called ‘Sunshine Man’ by members of WHE that visited the area over the years and the horrific fate of this beloved wild horse made them ‘physically ill,’ ” she said.

The BLM reports it has finished the first roundup, designated Antelope Complex-South. The second roundup — designated Antelope Complex-North — is expected to continue until 2,000 horses are rounded up.

So far, 1,698 wild horses have been captured in the two roundups, with just over 1,100 from the just-finished section.

Credit: Wild Horse Education

Of the 21 horses that died, 10 were “acute” deaths — many resulting from injuries during the roundups. Causes of death included four horses with broken necks, three with broken legs, two foals with colic and one dehydration death. A BLM website update indicates one of these horses was euthanized, but records are not final.

A total of 575 stallions, 794 mares and 329 foals have been taken off the range so far in an effort to “restore a thriving ecological balance,” according to the BLM.

“During this operation, welfare issues became urgent and we have made numerous attempts to meet with BLM and each attempt is ignored or blocked by public affairs,” Leigh said.

“BLM simply went into a defensive posture and hit the accelerator on removals,” she said, adding that observers were told “they can’t talk to each other” by a BLM public affairs person. “While we watch wild horses die BLM is more focused on controlling a conversation between observers than they are the safety of wild horses they are mandated by law to treat humanely. It is crazy-making.” 

The helicopter pilot herds wild horses into the trap at the Antelope Complex-South wild horse gather. (BLM photo)

“I did not know a stallion I loved would suffer such an excruciating end. Out of options, unfortunately, BLM has forced this issue back into the courts. It is absurd,” Leigh said. 

Advocates for wild horses have criticized the roundups during the summer heat, and the use of helicopters has long been controversial. U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., has fought to stop the use of helicopters.

Horses gathered in the south portion of the roundup are headed for the Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center in Reno. Horses from the north will go to the Indian Lakes Facility at Fallon.

The horses will be checked by a veterinarian and readied for the BLM’s wild horse and burro adoption program ( Those that are not placed into a new home will go to off-range pastures.