Cases in point:
©2010 Photography by Elyse Gardner
--- They didn't report the Pigeon Fever outbreak until two weeks after it was a known problem and advocates were on site at Fallon asking questions. And now BLM is saying the horses came in off the range with it. Oh, please. BLM is trying to say, "Oh, yes; we saw it when they came in off the range. We're on top of things. We knew that."
©2010 Photograph by Elyse Gardner
Do I seem angry? You bet. I am angry because we just want to know about the horses, and getting information is like pulling teeth, and I am heartbroken and tired. I don't like things to deteriorate into petty rivalries and grievances and the like.
BLM, we would like to know how many mares are birthing. And dying. We would just like to know. We really would like to know if a mare dies in the course of delivering. Some of us follow certain horses. We would just like to know these things. Why is it so hard? You now have tag numbers. We want to know what tag numbers you see giving birth. And, sadly, we want to know who died trying. And who has new babies. Let us volunteer to come out and log these things if you have manpower issues.
That being said, BLM people are not all bad guys, and I hope to build toward working together for the best outcome for our wild horses. IS THERE ANYBODY LEFT IN BLM WHO WANTS TO SEE WILD HORSES IN THE WILD? I'm looking for you. You're the one I want to talk to. THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT.
Well, that's the truth: I am not seeing it. I am not seeing transparency. I am not seeing access. I am seeing arbitrary AMLs. I am seeing a dangerous, unnecessarily close helicopter on a straggling, limping colt in obvious pain who would rather die than lose sight of his family. I am not seeing, and neither is Craig Downer, Terri Farley, or Don Molde, 600 wild horses left in the Calico Complex, which brings us to Craig Downer's story...
©Photography by Craig Downer
Craig and company were also, however, greeted by the skeleton of this horse whose remains I am grieved to feature today. However, in a grim sort of way it is satisfying because, like in a murder mystery where the victim retains the identifying necklace of her killer clenched in her right hand, this mare was able to point us to her killer in her dying moments.
This horse died a miserable, agonizing death trapped in this cattle guard. She stepped onto it, her hoof went through the rails, and she was trapped. She may have broken her leg. Even if she did not, she was trapped and could not escape. She may have been attacked by opportunistic coyotes while caught, or she may have died slowly, but we know she was trapped. And, ultimately, we know her leg was literally sawed off in order to extricate her from the cattle guard, as evidenced by the clean-cut bone visible on her leg. It did not have to be this way.
This horse's demise is a predictable, highly possible outcome when you have non-Wildhorse- Annie cattle guards along a path in a Herd Management Area (HMA) undergoing active helicopter roundup operations. The BLM's choice to abandon the regulation providing for Wildhorse Annie cattle guards directly resulted in this horse's tragic, terrible death.
But I've said too much. It is my privilege now to present Craig Downer's story. Craig is a wildlife ecologist passionate about securing and protecting the wild horses' and burros' freedom and reinstating the disenfranchised ones forcibly removed from their homes and families, now languishing in all-mare or all-male pens and flat pastures, missing their wild, simple way of life. I will let him tell you.
Composed Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010
On Monday the 29th of March, 2010, and with a certain mixed dread and anticipation, I revisited the Calico Mountain Complex of wild horse Herd Management Areas (HMAs) where large-scale, draconian helicopter roundups had just deprived 1,922 wild horses of their liberty. Accompanying me were Dr. Don Molde, a long-time animal advocate from Reno, who generously drove his 4WD vehicle, and Mrs. Terri Farley, of Verdi, Nevada, popular authoress of the Phantom series of books depicting wild horses. Along with the animal defense group In Defense of Animals, both Mrs. Farley and I are Plaintiffs in an ongoing legal suit that was brought before federal district court in Washington, D.C. this past December to try to halt the Calico complex wild horse helicopter roundups.
©Photography by Elyse Gardner
This was back in the days before Ronald Reagan’s election when BLM officials displayed much fairer attitudes toward the wild horses and their advocates during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. We had been enthralled by the pure beauty of the fine-boned, light-colored, black-maned and-tailed horses present in the high altitude meadows we visited. These appeared to be true Spanish mustang types, resembling Andalusians, bearing many Arabian features, like the dish-shaped face, the large eyes and flaring nostrils. Yet even way back then, these horses were having to put up with the machinations of local ranchers who had over-fenced the Granite Range wild horse herd area, blocking off vital water sources from access by the horses.
©1980 Photography by Craig Downer
It seems the ranchers are getting their way nearly 100%, especially now that BLM officials side nearly 100% with them in their hostile demands. Indeed, these officials are themselves largely drawn from the ranching community.
©1980 Photography by Craig Downer
Tragically, nearly all of these wild horses have now lost their freedom and languish in that glorified concentration camp alluded to above and located several miles north of the town of Fallon on private land where public viewing is limited to two hours on Sundays – yet this has been cancelled today, Easter Sunday, and no alternative day has been given.
©Photograph by Chrystie Davis
©1/7/10 Photograph by Elyse Gardner
©3/29/10 photograph by Craig Downer
©1980 Photograph by Craig Downer
©3/29/10 Photograph by Craig Downer
©3/29/10 Photographs by Craig Downer
As already mentioned, this horrendous crime occurred on St. Valentine’s Day of 2006. Evidence pointed to the culprits very probably being hunters engaged in a vermint hunting contest during this time (see Fuller, Alexandra. “Mustang Trails”. National Geographic. February 2009. Especially page 106 regarding the Sportsman’s Warehouse organized competition). Though two BLM law enforcement agents were assigned to the case and an unprecedented $15,000 reward was posted for the apprehension of the culprit(s) in towns around the site of the crime, such as Gerlach, Nevada, and Cedarville, California, to date no one has been charged. Ominously, the reward posters were repeatedly torn down when posted in the town of Cedarville.
©3/29/10 Photographs by Craig Downer
… wild, free-roaming horses and burros … contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people. (Public Law 92-195)
On Friday, 4/9/10, I asked Wild Horse and Burro Program Division Chief Don Glenn if BLM performs a safety check on an area before a roundup, as their regulations warrant. He affirmed that they do, and he reminded me how they flagged a fence in the Pryor Mountain roundup so the horses would stay clear of it.
However BLM, allows these non-Wildhorse Annie cattle guards, these gaping deathtraps, to remain in all HMAs. And they allow them to remain accessible, unfortified by rebar, during helicopter roundups, the most terrifying experience of a wild horse's life, an experience wherein they run for miles to try to escape a helicopter; where they run until their legs and feet are so bruised that some die from the injuries in the ensuing days and weeks. If ever a wild horse were to dare to try to traverse a cattle guard, it would be while fleeing a helicopter. Cattle guards exist as a supposedly impassible (by animals) gate (for humans) in between two fences. A desperate horse would see this break in the fence and maybe just try this once to get across it.
During our talk, Don Glenn stated that horses stay off cattle guards, that they "are not going to try to run over it unless they're pushed really hard into it." I agree. And when would a horse be harder pushed, more motivated to try to pass over a cattle guard than when pushed by a helicopter on its tail?
Regardless of when this horse and cattle guard locked in their final terrible mortal embrace, BLM is culpable for her death. They are mandated to protect and manage our horses; where is the protection on the range? All we hear about is management.
Why on earth is not some of the record $67.5 million BLM budget for the Wild Horse and Burro Program spent to fortify the cattle guards with rebar? Protect and manage our wild horses on the range.
On February 4, 2010, in Quay County, New Mexico, a family filly was euthanized because she got caught up in a cattle guard on private property when she tried to jump it, and broke her leg. This family has been trying to have the cattle guards removed and is in a dispute with their neighbor. To read the article http://www.qcsunonline.com/articles/guards-7970-cattle-stone.html
My point: cattle guards comprise a real and present danger to horses.
For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble burro friends,