More Tragedy Strikes During Roberts Mountain Wild Horse Roundup

Semi-truck overturns, leaving seven federally protected wild horses dead

Eureka, NV (October 31. 2023): Today the American Wild Horse Campaign is renewing its call for humane management of the nation’s federally-protected wild horses and burros in the wake of yesterday’s tragic vehicle incident that claimed the lives of seven of the federally-protected animals. 

According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), on October 30, 2023, a semi-truck carrying 39 recently captured wild horses from Nevada’s Roberts Mountain Complex flipped onto its side while transporting the animals to a holding facility in Utah. Three horses were killed in the accident, four more were euthanized due to their injuries, and many of the survivors sustained cuts and bruises. The driver was reportedly uninjured.

This accident came just three days after a Roberts Mountain wild stallion, in a desperate attempt to escape capture leaped out of the trap and sustained a broken leg. Once he was re-captured, he was euthanized. To date, four horses have died during the ongoing Roberts Mountain roundup. 

“This most recent tragedy compounds the trauma and devastation that wild horses suffer as a result of helicopter roundups, highlighting the inhumanity of the BLM’s capture and removal policy,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHC’s executive director. “It’s past time for an end to the BLM’s blunt force approach to wild horse management, particularly when humane, effective, and scientific alternatives exist.” to end. Enough is enough.”

AWHC is calling for a halt to the Roberts Mountain Complex roundup until the BLM determines the cause of the accident and a full and transparent investigation. 

AWHC is also calling on the BLM to accurately report the number of deaths associated with the roundup. Currently, the BLM is reporting four deaths on its webpage, rather than the 11 deaths that have occurred as a result of this operation.

The BLM contractor conducting the Roberts Mountain roundup Sampson Livestock LLC has a troubling record of animal welfare violations including:

  • A foal roped and forcefully thrown to the ground, unnecessary and inhumane use of excessive force (video)
  • Overstocking of the trap pen and temporary holding corral created a dangerous situation that claimed the lives of two wild horses and 10 broke free. The deaths were attributed to a  broken leg, a lacerated eye, and a collapsed eye socket. (video of the trap pen)(photo 1/photo 2 of the holding corral).
  • Overuse of the electric prod at the Twin Peaks wild horse roundup. According to the BLM’s own Comprehensive Animal Welfare Assessment, the contractors constantly carried the electric prods, used them before attempting to use other handling aids the requisite three times, used the prod on one wild horse more than three times, and used them in an unauthorized manner
  • Failure to cover the trap panels with jute or plywood to make the panels visible to the horses. As a result, a mare collided with the panel head-first and suffered a broken neck. The mare was left in the trap during two subsequent runs without being assessed to determine whether she was still alive and in need of euthanasia. When her body was finally removed from the trap, the contractors failed to use a sled, which is a violation of CAWP guidelines (video).
  • During one roundup conducted by Sampson Livestock, an 18-year-old stallion died from a broken neck after he hit a panel during sorting, a 2-year-old stallion also sustained a broken neck and died during loading from trap to holding, and a one-year-old female horse was euthanized after sustaining a broken ankle. Her leg became trapped between bars at the trap, larger horses pushed against her causing the ankle to snap.

Sampson Livestock LLC has been awarded $8,119,772. from 49 contracts with the BLM and $39,529 from 1 contract with the USFS since 2012, including contracts that extend through 2025. 

AWHC deploys observers to document most BLM roundups. In Fiscal Year 2024, the agency is targeting 8,826 wild horses and burros for capture this fall, with 8,214 scheduled to be permanently removed from the range. Follow AWHC's roundup coverage here

About the American Wild Horse Campaign 

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation's leading wild horse conservation organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America's wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.