Mustang Advocates: Gather Jeopardizes Pregnant Mares, Foals

A Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mustang gather intended to save animals from drought conditions jeopardizes the health and safety of pregnant mares and very young foals, according to some wild horse welfare advocates.

JoLynn Worley, BLM spokeswoman, said that on June 8, the BLM began an emergency gather of 630 wild horses from Jackson Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) near Winnemucca, Nev. Originally the gather was slated to begin in July 1, Worley said. Instead, the roundup takes place one month before the end of foaling season, which typically begins in March and extends through June.

While it is agency policy not to conduct gathers during foaling season, BLM District Manager Gene Seidlitz said that the emergency roundup was necessary because persistent drought conditions have severely diminished the animals' forage and water resources.

"The BLM started hauling water to troughs last month, (and) there is minimal to no green up occurring on this year's forge, (so) the wild horses in the southern end of the HMA are foraging on last year's cheatgrass and shrubs, and their condition is declining," Seidlitz said. "It is necessary for the health of the horses to get the excess animals off the range now before their condition worsens."

Mustang welfare advocates from the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) and The Cloud Foundation argue the gather will endanger pregnant mares and very young foals on grounds that the BLM will use helicopters to drive the animals to trapping areas.

"The BLM's decision to subject tiny foals, pregnant mares, and already compromised horses to the trauma of a helicopter stampede without even attempting a safer and more humane (method) clearly demonstrates the BLM's callous disregard for the well-being of these federally-protected animals," said AWHPC Communications Director Deniz Bolbol.

Neither Worley nor Seidlitz were available for comment on the argument.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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