Controversy Swirls over Colorado Wild Horse Roundup as Governor's Request to Postpone Helicopter Capture Falls on Deaf Ears

BLM helicopter chasing wild horse during roundup.
BLM helicopter chasing wild horse during roundup. AWHC

Newsdate: Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - 11:35 am
Location: WASHINGTON, DC

The American Wild Horse Campaign has observers onsite at the ongoing helicopter roundup being conducted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area (HMA) in northwest Colorado. AWHC will be providing daily updates for the media.

BLM workers loading wild horses onto stock trailers.

BLM workers loading wild horses onto stock trailers

The American Wild Horse Campaign has filed a notice of appeal of decision authorizing the roundup and permanent removal of 733 wild horses from the Sand Wash Basin in Colorados.
© 2018 by BLM New window.

  • Capture total: 320 wild horses as of Monday (9/6) morning. Captures include well-known stallions Tango and Michelangelo, son and grandson of the famed stallion Picasso.
  • Allegations swirl of horses left on the range with broken legs and foals separated from their mothers.
  • A 2-3 week old foal named Semper was left on the range alone after his mother was captured on Saturday. He was found Sunday morning wandering around the trap site with two stallions.  All three horses were captured on Sunday.
  • A second lone foal without its mother was found at the trap on Monday morning.
  • A stallion named Brennan was euthanized by the BLM on the range with severe injuries to one front leg and one rear leg. BLM is claiming that the death is “non gather related”, but observers dispute this, providing video (credit: Jaclyn Copley) clearly showing the stallion with a pre-existing front leg injury and a new rear leg injury which advocates believe occurred during the helicopter chase. The BLM has only acknowledged the “pre-existing” front leg injury as the reason for the horse’s euthanasia.
  • A mare with a small foal remains on the range with what appears to be a broken leg after the helicopter chase on Saturday. The BLM has stated that volunteers and staff have been unable to find the mare, but that the helicopter has not conducted a search to find her.
  • The American Wild Horse Campaign says injuries, trauma, and death are the cost of helicopter roundups and blasted claims that helicopter roundups are humane.
  • Horses captured are in good body condition belying the BLM’s claim that they are being rounded up to prevent starvation. Water holes are full and fall forage is coming in thanks to recent monsoon rains.

BLM Doubles Down on Roundup Despite Calls to Halt It

During a public Q&A at the roundup on 9/5, the BLM could not tell the public whether or not the agency has responded to requests by Governor Jared Polis and Congressman Joe Neguse that the roundup be postponed. (Neguse is chair of the House Natural Resources Committee’s Public Lands Subcommittee with direct oversight over the BLM.)

Colorado First Gentleman Marlon Reis posted Saturday, “Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will not be the hero we need for the wild horses currently being rounded up with helicopters in Sand Wash Basin.” 

BLM deflects calls from environmental groups to halt wild horse roundup and eliminate livestock grazing from the Sand Wash Basin, telling the public at the roundup that there is only a 20% overlap between what sheep graze and what horses graze  (therefore sheep grazing is not a threat to horses). Meanwhile, BLM’s own data shows that the average amount of forage consumed by sheep in allotments in the Basin over the last 12 years could sustain 386 more wild horses a year.

Conservationists at the Western Watersheds Project and Sierra Club Colorado have urged the BLM to halt the roundup and eliminate livestock grazing from the Sand Wash Basin instead. WWP Executive Director Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and one of the nation’s leading experts on sage grouse has rejected the BLM’s claims that wild horses need to be removed from Sand Wash Basin to save the sage grouse there.

The American Wild Horse Campaign has filed a notice of appeal of the Decision Record authorizing the roundup and permanent removal of 733 wild horses from in and around the Sand Wash Basin HMA and has urged the BLM both in a conversation with the State Director and to reduce the number of horses removed from the HMA by 200 in order to leave the population at the high end of the BLM’s imposed population limits.


Press release byAmelia Perrin (amelia@americanwildhorsecampaign.org), Grace Kuhn (grace@americanwildhorsecampaign.org)

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