August 13, 2018
Four wild horses that ran into a barbed-wire fence during an aerial roundup in Utah have been euthanized.
One horrifying photo shows one of the horses crashing to the ground with its hooves in the air after striking the fence in Utah's West Desert.
The photos, which were captured by an observer affiliated with the American Wild Horse Campaign, also show other horses scrambling to get away from the helicopter as it swoops down.
Several panicked horses managed to jump over the fence, but four were injured in the ordeal that occurred on Monday.
Photographer, Steve Paige, said the chopper was driving the horses toward a trap when they ran into the fence.
The horses were then tragically euthanized.
Suzanne Roy, the executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), sent a call to action letter to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)'s Utah director, Ed Roberson
'We call on the BLM to suspend the roundup underway currently in Utah by grounding the helicopters while an investigation is undertaken of the animal welfare violations documented by our observer,' Roy wrote.
'There is a way to manage wild horses, and this is not it.'
She called the roundup practices 'inhumane', citing issues of young foals being separated from their mothers, helicopters flying dangerously close to the animals, and stampeding horses with previous injuries such as blindness and leg deformities for miles at strenuous speeds.
Roy said her agency believes BLM contractor Sampson Livestock has violated BLM's Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy requirements for helicopter drives.
'This roundup exemplifies your agency's inhumane treatment of wild horses, fiscally reckless policies and continuation of the "business as usual" practices, which five years ago, the National Academy of Sciences called "expensive and unproductive for the BLM and the public it serves,"' Roy wrote in the letter.
Following the incident, the BLM acknowledged that horses hit the fence while a helicopter pursued them, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
'Fewer than a dozen wild horses escaped capture and some briefly became entangled in a fence,' spokeswoman Kimberly Finch said in a statement.
'The horses easily extracted themselves, and no serious injuries were observed. The fence, which was in place prior to the gather, was appropriately flagged to increase visibility to the horses.
'The BLM continues to adhere to our principles of compassion and concern for the animals we manage, while at the same time continuously working to improve operations where possible,' the statement continued.
Finch claimed that the four euthanized horses were suffering from pre-existing injuries.
The AWHC also noted in the letter that the wild horses being rounded up are coming in at the highest and healthiest for a wild horse, dispelling the claim by Rep Chris Stewart (R-UT) that wild horses are suffering from massive overpopulation and starvation.
According to the letter, BLM is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to round up horses from a public area where very few wild horses remain, but where the BLM authorizes approximately 1,600 privately owned cow/calf pairs to graze at taxpayer expense.
By Wednesday, the BLM had rounded up 250 wild horses, 50 horses more than originally stated.
The captured wild horses are being transported to the BLM’s Delta Holding Corrals in southern Utah.
They will become part of a holding system in which the BLM currently warehouses 45,000 wild horses and burros.
Last month, Stewart, a Republican whose district covers much of the state's wild-horse territory, added an amendment to a bill that had been funded for the maintenance of public lands and the prevention of wild fires.
The amendment would allow the BLM to perform painful and potentially lethal ovariectomies on America’s wild horses.
'I, too, believe these roundups should be conducted in the most humane way possible. However, to suggest there isn’t an overpopulation issue simply flies in the face of the facts,' Stewart said in a statement.
'The current number of horses on the range is over 80,000. The Appropriate Management Level (AML), set by the BLM, is just 26,690. The desert range simply cannot handle an additional 50,000 horses. Which is why I am continuing my bipartisan efforts to address the issue,' he added.
But many horse advocacy groups oppose sterilization, arguing that ovary removal puts mares at risk of infection because there would be no post-surgical care on the range.