LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — About 400 wild horses will be rounded up beginning next week just north of Great Basin National Park in east-central Nevada, according to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announcement on Tuesday.

The roundup on the Moriah herd area will use a helicopter to help gather the horses, and public observation is welcome “provided that doing so does not jeopardize the safety of the animals, staff and observers, or disrupt gather operations,” a BLM news release said.

Wild horses in the Moriah Herd Area. (Photo: Bureau of Land Management)

A previous BLM roundup in the sprawling Antelope Complex produced a lawsuit earlier this year by wild horse advocacy group Wild Horse Education. The lawsuit asked the court to grant a temporary restraining order to stop the roundup, which ended with 3,078 horses gathered and 39 deaths — including 11 sudden/acute deaths from injuries that happened during the roundup. The temporary restraining order was denied, but the lawsuit brought more attention to the BLM’s use of a helicopter to pursue a horse that had a broken leg. The BLM criticized “sensational allegations” in the lawsuit. The lawsuit, which is ongoing, asserts that BLM’s internal welfare program does not comply with the law. 

The BLM is currently working in northwest Nevada on another roundup that started in northeast California. The Surprise Complex gather in California ended Sept. 28 with 495 animals gathered (484 horses and 15 wild burros) and 16 deaths — horses that were put to death because of pre-existing or chronic conditions that hurt their chance of survival in the wild. That roundup transitioned on Oct. 1 into northwest Nevada in the Calico Complex, with a “primary gather” area of over 500,000 acres. So far, 376 horses have been gathered and 12 deaths are reported.

The BLM reports it has removed nearly 136,500 animals from public rangelands in Nevada since 1971. Those animals end up in the wild horse and burro adoption program.

For the Moriah roundup, the BLM said, “The gather is necessary to improve watershed health, protect wild horse health, and make significant progress towards achieving Northeastern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council Standards for Rangeland Health.”

The land has been downgraded and “the BLM decided to manage this area for zero wild horses as it no longer met the criteria for maintaining a thriving ecological balance with multiple uses,” the BLM said. An estimated 550 wild horses are currently in the area. That estimate doesn’t include foals born this year.

The Moriah herd area is 48 miles northeast of Ely and is “characterized by valleys and long, narrow steep mountain peaks covered with heavy pinyon-juniper woodlands. Elevations within the area range from approximately 5,000 feet to 10,200 feet.”

More information about the Moriah roundup is available here.