The Bureau of Land Management announced today that it is temporarily suspending the Tuscarora wild horse gather operations in Elko County, Nev., after BLM staff determined that gathered horses were dehydrated after seven gathered wild horses died from dehydration-related complications because of insufficient water in the area. The BLM also announced that the Tuscarora gather operations, aimed at removing horses from overpopulated herds, will remain on hold until an assessment has been completed to determine how to best proceed in light of the current condition of these horses.
“Our agency is committed to the humane treatment of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said. “Toward that end, I am suspending further Tuscarora gather operations until the situation concerning the initial stage of the Tuscarora gather is analyzed and thoroughly understood, and the options for minimizing mortality of horses weakened by dehydration can be assessed.”
The Tuscarora wild horse gather encompasses the Owyhee, Rock Creek, and Little Humboldt Herd Management Areas (HMAs) located in northern Elko County. The BLM initiated gather operations in the northern portion of the Owyhee HMA at 6:30 a.m., Saturday, July 10. By 9 a.m., the BLM contractor had gathered 228 wild horses, consisting of one group of approximately 32 horses located within a mile of the on-site temporary holding corrals, and a second group of approximately 196 horses located about eight miles from the corrals.
On arrival it was noted the horses were “drawn up,” or lacking fill from water. They were, however, generally in good body condition with most scoring 4 to 5 on what is known as the Henneke body condition scale. The horses were provided with hay and water through the afternoon and evening. One horse was euthanized shortly after being gathered due to a fractured leg that occurred in the temporary holding corrals.
The morning of July 11, four horses were found dead in the pens and several horses were exhibiting signs of colic and brain swelling which was subsequently attributed to water starvation/dehydration and subsequent water intoxication. Gather operations were stopped at that point, and BLM staff, specialists, the gather contractor and the on-site U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian began treating the horses. So far, seven horses have died from complications related to water starvation/dehydration or subsequent water intoxication. It was determined this was a direct result of a lack of water in the immediate areas occupied by the horses. The BLM brought in extra water, tank trucks and troughs to the temporary holding site to ensure that all gathered animals have ample water available. Electrolytes were provided in each pen and affected animals were examined and treated as indicated by the veterinarian on site.
The private contractor conducted an aerial flyover of the immediate area Sunday morning, July 11, and located two large bands of wild horses. One band, approximately 100 to 150 horses, is staying close to a nearly dried-up water hole. The second band, approximately 150 to 200 horses, is located approximately eight to 10 miles from the nearest water source. Both of these bands are presently at risk of mortality from dehydration if they do not reach other water sources. The BLM is unable to bring water into this area because the area where these bands are located is not readily accessible by road. The BLM will carefully monitor the two bands of horses during the next few days to determine whether they are independently moving to other water sources or can be encouraged to reach such waters on their own. The BLM will also continue to provide food, water and veterinary care for the animals in the on-site 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.