Despite the Modoc National Forest still closed due to fire concerns, the U.S. Forest Service is moving forward with the roundup and removal of wild horses from California’s largest wild horse herd.
The Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory (WHT) is in Northern California’s Modoc National Forest and is managed by the Forest Service, not the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Forest Service currently estimates that as of 2021 there are an estimated 1,926 adult horses in and around the territory. However, the Forest Service’s unscientifically low Appropriate Management Level (AML) for the HMA – the number of horses the agency claims that the range can sustainably support in conjunction with other animals and resource uses – is 206-402 horses.
While the Forest Service notes that this operation is necessary to address unsustainable impacts on aquatic resources, wildlife, hunting, grazing and other traditional cultural practices, at the same time the Forest Service continues to authorize thousands of cows to graze in the WHT.
It is time for the Forest Service to manage wild horse habitat for the wild horses.
This roundup will cost the taxpayers at least $708,000 thousand to just round up these 600 beloved horses from the WHT. After their removal, 200 will head to BLM-managed corrals and 400 will head to the Forest Service’s only corral, Double Devil. Thus, the removal will also bring along with it the lifetime cost of approximately $30,000,000 million to house these horses for the remainder of their lives in government-holding corrals with either BLM or the Forest Service. The contractor for this roundup is Cattoor Livestock Roundups.
On top of that, the taxpayer foots the bill for federally subsidized livestock grazing on public lands as well. The federal grazing fee remains at its historic low of $1.35 per animal per month. That’s a steep discount, thanks to the taxpayer subsidies that prop up this federal entitlement program. (Estimates indicate that the overall cost to taxpayers for the federal grazing program could be as much as $500 million annually.
Helicopters are scheduled to fly starting on September 15, 2021. We will update this report as the operation progresses.
Total horses captured: 506
Five deaths - 1 acute and 4 from "chronic long-term health issues".
October 17, 2021:With the capture of 18 horses, the 2021 Devil’s Garden Wild Horse roundup and removal ended today. Although the Forest Service had originally targeted 600 horses for removal, the final number was 506, including 217 stallions, 225 mares, and 64 foals.
October 16th: 19 wild horses were rounded up today.
October 14, 2021: 35 wild horses were captured today.
October 13, 2021: Five horses were rounded up and removed today.
October 12, 2021: Twelve wild horses were rounded up and removed today.
October 11, 2021: Fifteen horses were captured today.
October 10, 2021: Nine horses were captured today, bringing the total to 401 -- 173 stallions, 170 mares, and 58 foals.
October 9, 2021: On Day 24, 13 horses lost their freedom and family bands.
October 8, 2021: Five horses were rounded up and removed today.
October 6, 2021: 6 wild horses were captured today.
October 5, 2021: 24 horses lost their freedom and families in today's roundup.
October 4, 2021: Today 23 wild horses were captured.
October 3, 2021: On Day 18, 19 horses were rounded up and removed. So far, 298 horses, including 129 stallions, 130 mares, and 39 foals, have been captured.
October 2, 2021: 17 wild horses were rounded up today.
October 1, 2021: 30 wild horses lost their freedom today.
September 30, 2021: Three wild horses were chased into pens today.
September 29, 2021: On Day 14, 21 horses were rounded up and removed at the trap site near Goose Lake.
September 28, 2021: 35 horses were rounded up into pens today.
September 27, 2021: The helicopters did not fly today due to high winds.
September 26, 2021: Seven wild horses lost their freedom today.
September 25, 2021: One wild horse was captured today.
September 24, 2021: 29 wild horses were captured today
On Day 9, 29 horses were captured at the Logan Slough trap site north of the Big Sage Reservoir. One lucky stallion escaped. The horses included 16 stallions, 10 mares and 3 foals; to date, 154 horses have been rounded up and removed.
September 23, 2021: 25 wild horses lost their freedom today.
September 22, 2021 - 22 wild horses were captured
On day 7, 22 horses were rounded up and removed from Logan Slough trap site. They included 44 stallions, 42 mares and 14 foals.
September 21, 2021 – 22 More Horses Lose Their Freedom
Day four at the Logan Slough trap site saw another 22 horses removed from their 258,000-acre federally protected habitat.
AWHC had the only public observer documenting the operation.
The helicopter made two runs. In the first one midmorning, after the helicopter located 9 or so horses several miles away, it began driving them toward the trap site. However, the small band kept evading it by galloping in large circles away from it as the helicopter hovered above, trying to redirect them. At times, it looked like they might escape. Unfortunately, despite their heroic efforts, they couldn’t and were eventually captured.
After the helicopter flew around for several hours, it completed a second run early afternoon. Because the observation location was so far away, AWHC’s observer could only see a cloud of dust as the helicopter reportedly drove another group of horses into the trap pen.
The operation was called at 1:30 pm.
The Forest Service reported that the 29 horses captured yesterday included 9 stallions, 13 mares, and 7 foals. Body Condition Scores for the mares were 4 and 5 for the stallions.
September 20, 2021: 26 wild horses were stampeded into traps today.
On the third day at the Logan Slough trap site, 26 horses were removed from the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory in order to ensure continued subsidized grazing for private ranchers.
AWHC had the only public observer documenting the operation.
The helicopter made several runs, with two starting south of the trap site and driving the horses several miles. Such a distance raises concerns about the horses – and especially the foals – running over the lava-strewn plateau and injuring themselves.
The observation location was about a mile away from the trap site, making it difficult for our observer to have a clear view of the horses approaching it. Although it appeared that one group of horses came in at a walk or trot, the others were galloping. She could not differentiate between adult horses and foals.
The trap pen and its wings were totally obscured, so, once again, our observer could not see the condition of the horses as they entered the trap pen or how they were handled once in it.
The operation was called at 1:30 pm.
While the Forest Service allows our observer to view the horses at the Double Devil corral every morning, it does not permit any access to seeing the horses at the trap pen, being sorted there or at Double Devil, or loaded on or off the trailers.
To date, 78 horses, including stallions, mares, and foals, have lost their freedom and family bands. The Forest Service has reported no deaths or injuries.
September 19, 2021: The helicopters were grounded today due to much-needed rain in the forest.
Of the 42 horses captured yesterday, 21 were stallions, 15 were mares, and 6 were foals, some looking to be about 2 months old. The Body Condition Scores are 5 for the stallions and 4 for the mares.
The operation is expected to continue tomorrow at Logan Slough on the east side of the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory.
September 18, 2021 – 42 Horses Lose Their Freedom
Today began with a little hope. As AWHC’s observer was driving to the trap site, a lone bay stallion suddenly appeared, galloped across the road, then disappeared into the trees, leaving behind only a thin trail of dust.
Sadly, though, 42 other horses weren't so lucky and lost their freedom and family members at the new trap site on Logan Slough near the Big Sage Reservoir.
AWHC had the only public observer documenting the roundup and removal.
The helicopter made four runs, beginning early in the morning. At 10:30 am, the operation was called off due to high winds and anticipation of much needed rain.
The public observation was located about a mile away from the trap pen. While it offered a distant view of the helicopter chasing the horses across the open field, the trap pen and its wings were not visible.
The Forest Service reported that the four horses captured yesterday were three mares and one stallion with Body Condition Scores of 4 and 5, respectively.
September 17, 2021: 4 Horses Removed from Their Federally Protected Habitat
Today began with a public viewing of the newly captured horses – as well as the remaining horses from the 2020 roundup – at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals.
Twelve mares and geldings and four mare/foal pairs from last year’s operation are still in need of placement. All are available for $1, which, according to the Forest Service, encourages “trainers to help find homes for horses by leaving them as much value as possible.”
Once again, the trap site was located at Boles Tank on the west side of the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory.AWHC had the only public observer documenting the operation.
The helicopter made two runs.
- The first run: The first run started around 10:30 am, it drove four horses to the beginning of the funnel to the trap, However, like yesterday, the horses veered off just before entering it. The helicopter continued to pursue them for several minutes, but the horses kept evading it by a series of quick and tight turns.
- The second run: About 30 minutes later the helicopter started its second run and stampeded four horses into the trap pen. Our observer could not tell if they were the same horses who had avoided capture earlier.
Important to note is that the Territory is a lava-strewn plateau that can be treacherous for horses being driven over it at high speeds. However, because the Territory is heavily forested, our observer could not see how long or how fast the helicopter was pursuing the horses.
To provide real-time coverage that would ensure accountability during roundups, AWHC has long advocated the use of cameras in helicopters for both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. In fact, we repeatedly offered to buy them. However, both agencies have ignored our offer.
Just after the second run, at 11:15 am, the operation was called and the trap site was taken down and moved to a new location north of Big Sage Reservoir.
This is a surprisingly low number of horses given the Forest Service’s belief that the Territory is overpopulated with an estimated 1,926 adult horses residing on and around it.
Of concern to our observer was the size of the trap pen that appeared to be an extremely narrow and short chute. AWHC is reaching out to the Forest Service for more information.
Photo of domestic horses at the trap
The three mares who were captured yesterday
September 16, 2021: 3 wild horses were rounded up and removed today.
Today, the first day of the roundup on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory, three horses were captured and removed. The horses removed were three stunning mares – two bays and one black -- with Body Condition Scores of 4. Their ages have yet to be determined.
The trap was located at Boles Tank on the west side of the Territory. Cattoor Livestock, Inc. is the contractor.
AWHC had the only observer documenting the operation.
The helicopter made three runs between 9:00 am and 3:30 pm. Throughout the day, the horses proved difficult to find or were elusive once found.
The observation site offered good visibility of a section of the wings leading to the trap pen. However, because the Territory is heavily forested, our observer could not see how long or how fast the helicopter was moving the horses. Also, she had no view of the horses entering the trap pen or the handling of them or their condition once inside it.
On the first run in late morning, about 10 horses being driven toward the wings of the trap appeared to veer off and were able to evade capture.
On the second run around noon, another band of five or so horses escaped by breaking through the jute fencing of the wings just before the trap pen.
On the third run later in the afternoon, three horses were not as lucky and captured.
Viewing of the horses, who will be transported to Forest Service’s Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals on the Modoc National Forest, will be tomorrow morning.