Fears build for foals and adults in subzero temperatures and wind
ROCK SPRINGS, WY. (Dec. 10, 2013) - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) helicopter roundup of Wyoming’s Salt Wells wild horses in the snow and cold is over, but the inhumane treatment of the over 668 captive mustangs is continuing according to eyewitnesses to both the roundup and the corralling of the horses.
After being driven into traps with two helicopters, most stallions were shipped 300 miles to the Gunnison Prison Wild Horse Program in central Utah, while the mares and foals were sent to the BLM’s Rock Springs corrals, according to Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, Jay D’Ewart. Neither facility has adequate wind breaks or shelter for the captive animals, and eyewitnesses in Rock Springs reported bitter cold and battering winds.
Noted wild horse photographer Carol Walker described the conditions: “Mares and foals seemed frozen in place, resigned, unmoving. There is no shelter for these horses in Short Term Holding Facilities and although they have heavy winter coats, these horses have nowhere to get out of the biting, stinging wind. In their natural setting, they would be out of sight in low areas, gullies, next to cliffs, sheltered from the wind.”
The Cloud Foundation (TCF) questioned the BLM in Rock Springs about whether there were windbreaks for the horses warehoused there. BLM responded by email that the horses do have windbreaks.
“Look at my pictures and see if you see adequate windbreaks,” says Carol Walker. “The temperature was below zero with the snow blasting through the pens where the horses were huddled together for warmth.”
TCF also requested an accounting of how many wild horses are currently being held in the Rock Springs corrals. The BLM public information officer told Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of TCF in an email to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for this information.
“Responses to FIOA requests typically take months and then the government may simply deny the information requested,” stated Kathrens. “Why is this information being kept secret? Have horses already died in these frigid conditions?”
Unless TCF gets a count immediately, there may be no way to determine foal survival rates since BLM, shockingly, does not count young horses less than six months of age. At the BLM National Adoption Center in Palomino Valley (PVC) foals that die that are less than six months of age are not counted and their bodies are shipped to local renderers with no paper trail documenting that they ever existed.
BLM was criticized for its lack of transparency in the recent National Academies of Science (NAS) review of the troubled Wild Horse and Burro Program but no recommended changes have been announced or implemented. The NAS also concluded that massive roundups, like the one just completed in Wyoming, are counterproductive and stimulate increased breeding among the remaining bands.
The Cloud Foundation is calling on Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to weigh in on the situation. “First the horses are rounded up in the bitter cold, and now they are trapped in small corrals that do not offer the horses any protection from the elements,” states Rachel Reeves who attended and photographed the roundup. “It is heartbreaking to see these wild horses being held captive in such inhumane conditions. I especially worry for the small foals, some of whom were less than two months old when they were rounded up and removed.”
Many advocates are disappointed with the continued lack of attention by Jewell, despite continued criticism from Americans all over the country. “As adopters, we must have adequate shelter for our BLM mustangs,” states Lisa Friday, a Virginia wild horse adopter and advocate. ”Why is the government not held to the same standard? It is long past time for a change!”
Paula Todd King
The Cloud Foundation (TCF) is a Colorado based 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wild horses and burros on our western public lands.