An internal review by the Bureau of Land Management has found that Sun J Livestock, one of the BLM’s wild horse gather contractors, did not violate existing BLM policy or procedures in connection with a Jan. 27, 2011, incident involving a mare that fell, got up, and was subsequently pursued by the contractor’s helicopter during the ongoing gather of wild horses at the Antelope Complex, located in Elko and White Pine counties, Nevada. The controversial incident, captured on videotape, was widely disseminated on the Internet and through the news media.
The four-member BLM review team concluded that the mare had stumbled or tripped and fell when she lost her footing in a small snow drift. She was not over-driven and did not collapse from exhaustion, the review team found. Following attempts by the helicopter to herd her into the trap, she ran off uncaptured.
BLM Director Bob Abbey said, “The BLM review team was asked to look into this incident to see whether Sun J violated any existing BLM policy or procedures relating to the gathering of wild horses from the Antelope Complex, an overpopulated Herd Management Area in Nevada. The team found that no such violation occurred.” Abbey added, “This finding does not mean that the BLM is satisfied with its existing policy and procedures dealing with wild horse gathers. We will carefully review our policies, consider advice from experts, and continue to look for ways to improve and minimize the risks to animals.”
“Since 1976, when Congress first authorized the use of helicopters in the gathering of wild horses, capture techniques have steadily improved. But we must advance as far as possible in ensuring the humane treatment of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range,” Abbey said. “The ‘old normal’ for doing things is not good enough for our agency. We need to take a hard look at existing gather policy and procedures, make any and all needed improvements, and then create a ‘new normal’ for doing business.”
The review team, established by Dean Bolstad, Deputy Division Chief, BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program, and Amy Lueders, Acting State Director, BLM-Nevada, consisted of Dr. Albert J. Kane, Senior Staff Veterinarian, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), APHIS/BLM Wild Horse and Burro Partnership; Gus Warr, BLM-Utah Wild Horse and Burro Program Specialist; Lili Thomas, Wild Horse and Burro National Program Office, Contracting Officer Representative; and Mary D’Aversa, BLM-Nevada Schell Field Office Manager.
The full text of the team’s report can be found at http://www.blm.gov/xm5c