On September 5, 2019, the U.S. Forest Service began another roundup of approximately 500 California mustangs from the Devil's Garden Wild Horse Territory from within the Modoc National Forest in Alturas, California.
This latest roundup follows the controversial removal of 932 horses last fall, after which the agency announced its intent to the captured animals without limitation on slaughter. The plan provoked litigation and widespread opposition from the public and California political leaders including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu and 26 other members of the California Congressional delegation, and Assemblyman Todd Gloria and 27 of his California Legislative colleagues. In October, the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), joined by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit to block the Forest Service from proceeding with its plan.
Under pressure from local ranching interests that seek access to cheap grazing on public lands in the Modoc, the Forest Service intends to reduce the wild horse population to between 206-402 in the Forest while authorizing over 3,700 privately-owned cow/calf pairs and 2,900 privately-owned sheep to graze for six months a year on the public lands there. Livestock operators have always claimed that there are as many as 4,500 wild horses living in the Forest but the recently released census by the United States Geological Survey released last month estimates that far fewer mustangs actually reside there. We believe that the Forest Service and livestock interest groups have been falsely inflating horse numbers with the intent of securing tax dollars for roundups to remove most of the wild horses from the Modoc Forest.
Last year, AWHC offered to implement and fund a pilot fertility control project to humanely reduce population growth rates in the herd, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. However, the Forest Service rejected the offer.
October 6, 2019 - Devil’s Garden Roundup Ends with 499 Horses Removed, 3 Dead
Day 30 brought the end of the 2019 helicopter roundup on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory.
The operation began on September 5th and resulted in the permanent removal of 499 horses from their 258,000-acre federally protected habitat. The goal was 500 horses.
Three horses also died at the U.S. Forest Service’s Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals.
The Forest Service had $636,142 contract with Sun J Livestock, Inc. to conduct the operation. This does not include the cost of caring for the 300 or so older horses being held at the Forest Service’s Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals or the younger horses sent to the BLM Litchfield corrals.
The Devil’s Garden horses are California’s largest and most historic wild horse herd.
October 5, 2019 - 10 Horses Removed/1 Dead in Devil’s Garden Roundup
On day 29, 10 horses were rounded up at the trap site near Pretty Tree Reservoir on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory, bringing the total number removed to 477.
The Modoc Forest Service also reported that a mare was trampled in a pen at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals on October 4th. She was the third horse to die after being transferred to the U.S. Forest Service’s holding facility.
According to a press release from the Modoc Forest Service, “While every accident concerns forest personnel, this is a relatively-low mortality rate for an operation of this kind,” adding that “Veterinarians and forest personnel are awaiting test results to be sure the horse was not otherwise sick. Those results will be shared in future updates.”
October 4, 2019 - 30 Horses Caught in Last Days of Devil's Garden Roundup
On day 28, 30 horses lost their homes after being rounded up from the Devil's Garden Wild Horse Territory, bringing the total number removed to 467.
According to the Modoc Forest Service, one horse escaped the trap. The helicopter roundup is scheduled to end on or before Oct. 9, 2019.
October 3, 2019 – 20 More Wild Horses Removed from Their Homes on Devil’s Garden
Twenty-seven days of the U.S. Forest Service's helicopter roundup on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory has resulted in 436 horses being permanently removed from their 258,000-acre federally protected habitat.
Yesterday, 20 more horses were captured from the trap site near Pretty Tree Reservoir.
The Modoc Forest Service has not released any recent reports on the conditions of the horses or the number of deaths or injuries resulting from the operation.
October 2, 2019 – Day 26 of Devil’s Garden Roundup Targets 13 Horses
The helicopter roundup on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory captured 13 wild horses – seven mares, five studs and one foal – at the trap site near Pretty Tree Reservoir on day 26 of the operation. The total number of horses removed is 416.
September 29, 2019 – 44 Devil’s Garden Horses Lose Their Freedom
Forty-four horses were removed on day 25 of the roundup on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory. They include 20 mares, 16 studs and eight foals. The trap site was once again located near Pretty Tree Reservoir.
Two horses have died at the U.S. Forest Service’s Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals.
Members of the public can still observe the remaining days of the roundup and removal on a first come-first serve basis. Please call 530-233-8738 to make reservations or for more information.
September 28, 2019 – Another Devil’s Garden Horse Dies, Ten Horses Rounded Up and Removed
On day 24, high winds closed the roundup operation on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory early but not before 10 more horses were captured.
The total number of horses permanently removed is 336.
In addition to the mare who died after slamming into a gate post at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals, the Modoc Forest Service reported that a young stallion was also euthanized after getting his leg caught in the corral panels.
September 27, 2019 – 326 Horses Rounded Up and Removed from Devil’s Garden
Day 23 brought the removal of 29 more horses from the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory roundup. One stallion escaped the trap site that was located near Pretty Tree Reservoir.
To date, 326 horses have lost their homes on the federally-designated habitat. Two hundred forty-one horses have been transported to the the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals, and 85 have been shipped to the BLM Litchfield corrals.
September 26, 2019 – One Devil’s Garden Mare Dies, Seven More Horses Removed
On day 22, seven horses were captured at the trap site near Pretty Tree Reservoir on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory, bringing the total number of horses removed to 297.
The Modoc Forest Service reported that one mare died after she ran into a gate at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals. Another young stallion got after his leg caught in a panel at the corrals and is receiving care.
Members of the public are invited to obverse the remaining days of the roundup and removal on a first come-first serve basis. Please call 530-233-8738 to make reservations or for more information.
September 25, 2019 – Seven Horses Captured on Devil’s Garden– One Death and One Injury at Corrals
On the 21st day of the helicopter roundup on the 258,000-acre Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory, seven more horses were captured at the trap site near Pretty Tree Reservoir. So far, 297 horses have been removed since the operation began on September 5th. The Modoc Forest Service reported that one mare died after running into a gate at the U.S. Forest Service’s Double Devils Corrals yesterday. Additionally, a young stallion injured a leg after getting it caught in a panel; he is under observation and getting care. The U.S. Forest Service is targeting 500 horses for removal. Members of the public are invited to observe the remaining days of the roundup operation. Please call 530-233-8738 to make reservations or for more information.
September 24, 2019 – Wild and Domestic Horses Captured During Devil’s Garden Roundup
On the 20th day of the helicopter roundup and removal on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory, 24 horses were captured at a trap site near Pretty Tree Reservoir. Of those horses, the Modoc Forest Service reported that eight of them are domestic horses. Members of the public are invited to observe the roundup and removal of the horses off their federally-protected habitat. The U.S. Forest Service is also offering tours at its Double Devil corrals to view the captured horses on Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 a.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m. To make a reservation for viewing the roundup operation or a tour of the corrals, call the Modoc Forest Service at 530-233-8738
Owners of the domestic horses should also call 530-233-8738 to reclaim their horses.
September 16, 2019 - No horses were removed due to wind and rain.
September 15, 2019 - No horses were rounded up and removed today. A new trapsite is being set up near the Dalton Reservoir.
September 14, 2019 - 4 horses were captured from the Boles Tank trap site and transferred to the sorting facility at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals.
September 13, 2019 - 7 horses were captured around the Boles Tank yesterday on the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory.
September 12, 2019 - 24 more mustangs were sorted in the temporary facility at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals. A total of 165 horses have been captured from the Devil’s Garden Plateau since September 5.
The contractors established a new trap site at Boles Spring yesterday and will begin operations tomorrow.
September 11, 2019 - 49 horses were rounded up and from the Logan Slough trap site on the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory.
September 10, 2019 - 24 wild horses were captured in the roundup today from the Logan Slough trap site on the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory. This included 12 mares, six studs and six foals.
September 9, 2019 – Forest Service 27: Devil’s Garden Wild Horses
The fifth day of the roundup on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory resulted in 27 horses, including several foals, being permanently removed from their federally protected habitat.
Once again, the trap site was at Logan Slough. The helicopter targeted large groups of horses who were spotted at least 2 miles south of it. Because of the distance and trees, visibility was totally obscured. Occasionally, the helicopter and the siren used to help move the horses could be heard. The trap site afforded only a rare view of the horses’ heads as they were moving into it or being loaded onto the trailers.
AWHC team members were the only public observers.
The Forest Service has not reported any injuries or deaths.
Early Monday morning, the agency allowed the public full view of all the horses removed so far at its Double Devil Corrals. Body condition scores ranged from 3-5, which translates into good to excellent shape.
The Forest Service expects the roundup and removal to continue for 30 days.
September 8, 2019 - Seven Wild Horses Lose Their Freedom on Day Four of the Devil’s Garden Roundup
The U.S. Forest Service removed another 7 horses from Logan Slough in the southeast corner of the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory, bringing the total number to 25 in the first four days of the roundup.
Once again, the helicopter had difficulty finding horses and moving them into the trap, with wind playing a factor. The first band of four horses wasn’t captured until midafternoon.
In the morning, about 10 horses, including at least 1 foal, were spotted outside the gather site. It’s unknown whether any of them were eventually captured.
Although the area for public observation was less than ½ mile away from the trap, a tree line and the location of the trap made it almost impossible to see any part of the operation.
The Forest Service reports that there were no injuries or deaths.
AWHC team members were the only public observers.
In 2018, the Forest Service removed around 500 horses from Logan Slough. The location of Monday’s trap site has yet to be determined.
September 7, 2019 - Fifteen Wild Horses Removed from Devil’s Garden on Day Three of Roundup
Today’s roundup and removal of wild horses took place on Logan Slough, a section of the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory that is also part of an allotment where 300 privately-owned cow/calf pairs are allowed to graze. As on Thursday, the horses were difficult to locate and herd into the trap.
AWHC team members were the only public observers.
Although the U.S. Forest Service eventually captured 15 horses – 5 stallions, 8 mares, and 2 foals, two bands of horses eluded the helicopter.
The area for public observation was about ¼ - ½ mile away from the trap site. Visibility was severely limited by a tree line as well as smoke during the morning from a fire about 15 miles southeast of Logan Slough.
In early afternoon, the helicopter’s first two attempts to bring in two bands of horses were unsuccessful. According to Forest Service staff, one horse took cover under a tree, resulting in the helicopter losing the other members of the band while it tried to move him. Another band of horses escaped when a stallion ran toward the helicopter and away from the trap, taking the other horses with him. Later, two horses jumped over the jute fabric hung along the entrance to the trap and also escaped.
The Forest Service reports that there were no injuries or deaths. After the horses were trailered to the Double Devil Corrals for sorting and processing, the Forest Service allowed public access for viewing. Horses from both today’s and Thursday’s operations were in good condition, with body condition scores between 3 and 4.
Day 2, September 6, 2019 - Day Two of Devil’s Garden Roundup/Removal of Wild Horses Cancelled
The Devil’s Garden wild horses were given a one-day reprieve. More than a dozen fires on the Modoc National Forest resulted in the roundup/removal being delayed for several hours this morning.
Although the U.S. Forest Service planned to start the operation in the afternoon, the contractor, Sun J. Livestock, cancelled it after deciding that high winds would make flying dangerous.
The Forest Service expects the roundup/removal will continue on Saturday at Logan Slough, which is southeast of Steele Swamp, the site of Thursday’s operation, and part of the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse
Over the last few days, thunderstorms and lightning moved across the Modoc National Forest and surrounding areas, igniting multiple wildfires primarily in grass, brush, and juniper trees.
Day 1, September 5, 2019 - Nineteen Wild Horses Removed During Day One of Devil’s Garden Roundup
The first day of the helicopter roundup on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory targeted 19 horses on Steele Swamp in the northeast corner of the Modoc National Forest. According to U.S. Forest Service officials, they’re considered “trespass horses” because they are migrating between the Territory and private land, and the agency is responding to the landowner’s request for their removal.
Throughout the day, locating the horses proved to be difficult, in part, because they had moved into the tree line for cover. Although the helicopter took off around 8am, after several hours and many loops around this section of the lava strewn plateau, it had to return multiple times for refueling. Finally, around noon, six horses – all stallions – were captured with the assistance of a Judas horse – a domestic horse trained to lead wild horses into the trap. It took another three hours before a second group of 13 horses – a mix of stallions, mares, and yearlings – met the same fate.
Public observation of the operation was from a slight slope about a half a mile south of the trap site and largely obscured by trees. Body conditions of the horses is unknown. Viewing of them at the Double Devil Corrals was postponed until tomorrow because of the late finish of the roundup.
The Forest Service plans to remove 500 horses over the next month. Sun J Livestock is the contractor. The spring 2019 census estimated that 1,802 horses are residing on the 258,000 acres of federal rangelands.
Note: Photos were taken with a 500 telephoto lens and a teleconverter of 1.4, so the image is compressed, making things look closer to each other than they are. For example, the helicopter was not as close as it appears to the horses.