Starting in July, over 7,000 wild horses freely roaming across public lands in the United States will be captured by the Bureau of Land Management (B.L.M.), leading to the permanent removal of 5,857 mustangs from their natural habitat.
The upcoming operation follows the aggressive roundups of 2022, where the B.L.M. used helicopters and horseback riders to capture around 21,000 wild horses and burros – this figure was nearly twice the amount seized in the highest previous year of capture in 2012.
As a result, over 60,000 wild horses and burros are currently living in the B.L.M.’s overcrowded holding facilities. July’s roundups will see thousands more confined in these centers where they are in danger of deadly disease outbreaks.
These facilities cannot keep pace with the B.L.M.’s increasing captures and have been associated with mass preventable deaths and widespread animal welfare violations such as inadequate vaccinations, insufficient access to hay, and understaffing, according to Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). In April 2022, 145 horses being held in a B.L.M. facility in Colorado died from a typically preventable equine flu due to a lack of proper vaccinations. A report compiled by B.L.M. officials and a veterinarian with the U.S. Department of Agriculture found B.L.M.’s policy violations contributed to the deadly outbreak.
“It’s not as if 60,000 mustangs and burros walked up and let themselves into B.L.M. holding facilities,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director for American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC). “The B.L.M. has created this crisis by catering to private interests, removing thousands more wild horses than could be placed into private care. It is now more important than ever that the B.L.M. utilize the readily available humane fertility control at a meaningful scale.”
The news of July’s roundup comes after the B.L.M. released its Wild Horse and Burro Gather and Fertility Control Schedule and Fiscal Year 2023 wild horse and burro population data, which indicates a slight rise in population numbers. However, the AWHC states that the B.L.M.’s estimation raises doubts, given not only the extensive removals that occurred last year but also the deaths resulting from the exceptionally severe winter experienced in the West.
“If taken at face value, the increase shows that the agency’s inhumane wild horse roundups have failed to even create short-term progress toward achieving its population goals,” continued Roy. “Meanwhile, it has created a long-term fiscal crisis by rounding up more than 20,000 animals, skyrocketing the captive holding population to all-time highs.”