The Bureau of Land Management’s Black Rock Field Office began the Buffalo Hills Complex wild horse gather on July 1, 2022.
BLM plans to gather approximately 383 wild horses, remove approximately 353 excess wild horses, and treat up to 30 mares with Gona-Con, a population suppression fertility control vaccine. The treated mares will be released back to the range. GonaCon needs much more research before it is used for our wild mares. (see more on GonaCon below)
According to the Environmental Assessment (EA) there are 131,861 acres in the HMA. The AML for wild horses is 188-314. What we cannot believe is that the current plpan was tiered of an EA from 2018. And that EA used population estimates that were based on a survey done in 2015.
"The current estimated population of wild horses within the BuffaloHills HMA is721 wild horses and 20 wild burros (including 2018 foal crop). This number is based on the April 2015 population survey for the HMA and includes a 15% average annualpopulation growth rate for wild burros and 20% average annual population growth rate for wildhorses to reflect the 2016, 2017, and 2018 foal crops."
OWHO was not in existence when this plan was approved, bt it certainly should have been challenged by any one of the larger organizations that constantly collects donations claiming they fight for our wild horses. To claim a population exists based on a 7 year old survey is not acceptable, nor scientifically sound.
After the first 2 days of gathering BLM reports 86 animals gathered. They list 2 deaths slating one as a rattlesnake bite (while in holding) and another as unknown causes (a 4 month old foal from the last run of day one. It was found dead in the trailer before reaching holding). BLM won't list these horses as deaths caused by the gather but clearly if the gather had not happened it is likely that both of these horses would still be alive.
The helicopters are being operated by Sampson Livestock. An observer who was on the gorund documenting the gathers has reported that there is barbed wire being used for one wing of the trap site that is not flagged, that the foal who is now deceased temporarily escaped and was pursued again by the helicopter.
That public observer then reported on Day 2 a band of wild horses was chased for over 30 minuteswhile in view of trap (who knows how long they were pursued before that). One adult horse escaped and a foal ended up on the wrong side of the barbed wire. "The foal was roped, hog tied (flipped twice) and then tied to the back of an ATV and brought into the trap."
No public observation will be allowed at temporary holdingbecause it is on private land. BLM has many areas to set these temporary holding facilities but avoids the public's first amendment rights by gaining agreements where private landowners, who are grazing permittees. They then temporarily house captured horses. BLM has plans to gather the South Steens horses in Oregon later this summer and the public will ot be able to observe because the trap site will be on private lands.
Our views on GonaCon
We see problems with it in that it is hormonal which changes the behaviors of the mares, bands and ultimately herds. It also has to ability to sterilize animals very easily, and the reversability is not studies well enough to ensure that these horses being treated are not being sterilized. Of course that's attractive to BLM since they don't want the horses there in the first place. The other major issue with GonaCon is that there are no studies on the feed through properties. All we know is that the factsheet for the product states that it "can" sterilize a human femal, it is not to be used ON food animals, and not be used near surface waters. Are we going to sterilize predators who might consume flesh from a deceased horse? A human who consumes one that ends up in the slaughter pipeline? We jsut do not have this informationa and BLM needs to stop all use of GonaCon until these questions are answered.
As advocates we have to do muchbetter than this. This is a plan that never should have been accepted by any organization that is there watching this gather who didn't go to court and fight for a new survey for population, fight to stop the use of GonaCon and fight for the entire, original herd area, used in 1971 to be managed principally for these horses. Why didn't we see their posts and articles about this when there was an open comment period? Why wasn't this big news then? Likely because waiting for horses to be gathered, and for foals to die, is ore sensational, and brings more clicks, and ultimately brings in ore donations. We'll be happy when we never have situations like this to report to you.
No member of the OWHO team gets paid. We'd all rather focus on the beauty of our wild lands, and wildlife. Some of us would like to retire and know the wild horses are finally safe. Butwe're here because they need our voices. They need your voices. Demand that an organization who is there watching this happen, BE THERE whenthe plan is being created, and fight to stop it before then.
NO MORE DONATIONS TO GO WATCH ABUSE IF YOU ARE NOT FIGHTING TO STOP IT!