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BLM takes emergency actions to provide water to wild horses



blm_logo-300x261-8916210-7155254Due to escalating drought conditions, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has implemented emergency actions to provide water to wild horses within the Tuscarora gather area, which encompasses the Owyhee, Rock Creek, and Little Humboldt Herd Management Areas (HMAs) located in northern Elko County, Nev.

The BLM gather contractor conducted an aerial flyover of the Owyhee HMA at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, July 13, and located two large groups of wild horses: the Dry Creek group consisting of approximately 125 wild horses; and the Star Ridge group consisting of approximately 400 animals.

The Star Ridge group is located around a dry reservoir and making no attempt to move to the nearest water source located approximately 10 miles away at the South Fork Owyhee River.  The animals are considered at risk of dying from complications of water starvation/dehydration.  While some of the Dry Creek group has recently watered, the BLM remains concerned and will continue to monitor the group.

“BLM Nevada considers this an emergency situation,” said Ron Wenker, BLM Nevada State Director.  “Yesterday afternoon the BLM implemented a short-term emergency strategy to provide the animals water during the next four to five days in an effort to stabilize their health condition.”

The BLM installed six water troughs with a combined capacity of 3,000 gallons near and around a reservoir located about two to three miles from where the Star Ridge group is located, and used a water tanker to fill the troughs.  If the wild horses do not independently travel to this water, the BLM will assess having the gather contractor use his helicopter to gently and slowly guide the animals toward the water with the hope that they will drink.

“A large number of these excess wild horses could die if they are not gathered,” added Wenker.  “Therefore, BLM Nevada’s goal is to gather these animals within four to five days after stabilizing their immediate water starved condition.”

The BLM cannot sustain this level of support to provide water to the animals over the long-term because of the limited road access and the poor condition of roads in this area.  This drought condition scenario was considered and analyzed by the BLM in the environmental assessment prepared for the gather.

The BLM also has organized a review team consisting of BLM and independent experts to analyze the on-the-ground conditions of wild horses and the public rangelands.  Team members include Mike Mottice, BLM Oregon/Washington Associate State Director (Team Leader); Tom Pogacnik, BLM California Deputy State Director, Natural Resources; Dr. Boyd Spratling DVM & BLM’s National Wild Horse Advisory Board; Eric Reid, Wild Horse/Burro Specialist, Fillmore, Utah; Dr. Klell Ekins, Equine DVM; and Robin Lohnes, American Horse Protection Association & BLM National Wild Horse Advisory Board.

BLM Nevada has been coordinating closely with Review Team members regarding the current drought conditions and related impacts on the wild horses.  The Team currently is in Nevada and will be assessing overall gather operations.  The Team will develop a report and provide recommendations to the BLM Director as to if and/or when planned gather operations should be resumed, and under what conditions.

The BLM continues to provide food, water and veterinary care for the 216 wild horses in the on-site temporary holding corrals.  No wild horses died on Tuesday and the health conditions of the animals appear to be stabilizing. Given the overall improvement of the condition of the animals that were gathered last Saturday, the BLM today shipped three truckloads with 88 mares and 41 foals (129) to the Palomino Valley Center (PVC) regional adoption facility, located 20 miles north of Sparks, Nev.

The BLM initiated gather operations on Saturday, July 10, and gathered 228 excess wild horses.  To date, eleven horses have died from complications related to water starvation/dehydration or subsequent water intoxication.  Based on necropsies of the dead horses by the on-site veterinarian, the BLM has determined the mortalities were a direct result of a lack of water in the immediate areas occupied by the horses.  One horse was euthanized shortly after being gathered due to a fractured leg that occurred in the temporary holding corrals.

As more information becomes available it will be posted at the website:  http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/elko_field_office/blm_programs/wild_horse_and_burro/owyhee_rock_creek.html.  For further comments and questions, the public may call 1-866-468-7826.

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