Roundup Report: Swasey Mountain HMA, July 2020

On July 15, 2020, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Fillmore Field Office in Utah began a roundup and removal of wild horses from within and outside of the Swasey Herd Management Area (HMA) in Millard and Juab counties. The roundup is expected to last approximately sixteen days.

The BLM is using helicopter contractors Sampson Livestock to stampede and capture approximately 800 wild horses to reduce the population to just 60 horses. Once captured, the mustangs are loaded onto semi-truck trailers and hauled to privately-operated and closed-to-the-public corrals in Axtell, Utah, and to the agency's Delta Wild Horse Facility in Delta, Utah, which will be closed to the public until August 1 when the horses will be made available through the BLM’s adoption and sale program.

In addition to reducing the population to just 60 wild horses on 120,000 acres of public land where over 12,000 privately-owned sheep are allowed to graze annually, the BLM is considering implementing surgical sterilization -- including the controversial ovariectomy via colpotomy procedure -- as an ongoing management tool in this HMA. 

AWHC's field representative is onsite. Read below for daily reports from the field.

SIGN OUR PETITION


July 24, 2020

9 wild horses were rounded up and removed today. This the was the last day of the helicopter roundup operation, and the BLM is switching to bait and water trapping where the public is not permitted to attend.  

July 23, 2020

27 wild horses were rounded up and removed today.

The BLM hotline, where members of the public are able to get details on meeting locations of each day of a roundup, has not worked for several days. The BLM has been notified and it has not been addressed. 

The BLM began the day at the same trap site as the day prior. Our observation point on a sand dune was located about 1.5 miles from the trap site making it very difficult to get clear, close photos. 

Horses continue to crash into panels as we have seen on days prior. 

 

The BLM then moved the trap site back to the location we began, but this time, instead of placing us up the hill like before, the BLM placed us approximately two miles away from the trap. 

After the first run, we then moved observation to top of hill. 

Stressed horses continue to crash into panels. Contractors do not allow time for the horses to settle and continue to wave flags even though the horses are clearly in distress. 

For the last 2 groups: Temperatures hit 98 and 100 (92 in shade). Response from BLM rep when the temp was announced was "So what?". Running horses in 95 degree heat or above is in violation of CAWP, but it goes to show that it goes without enforcement. 

July 22, 2020

42 wild horses were captured today. Body conditions continue to be in the 4-5s, with the exception of a few. 

The BLM hotline, where members of the public are able to get details on meeting locations of each day of a roundup, has not worked for several days. The BLM has been notified and it has not been addressed. 

It was a 5 am departure, about an hour and a half drive up dusty roads to a new trap site. Upon arrival, we were told the trap had not been set up yet and it would be a 1.5-hour wait. The BLM places us about 1.5 miles from the trap site, making it one of the worst viewings of the operation thus far.

There were 2 members of the public onsite. 

Of note:

  • A wildfire has started right in the same hillside of the trap, within about 1 mile. It is a 1,200-acre wildfire. One of the lead firefighters said they witnessed 2 mustangs run from the are the other day, he assumed, because of the fire. There was also a band of 12 that moved. 

  • BLM continued to not follow its own COVID19 for the safety of employees and the public. 
  • We were placed too far away to see anything with the naked eye

  • A group was brought in with the crippled horse. Thankfully, the helicopter contractor brought them in slowly. 
  • The temperature was cool all day until just before the last run when clouds parted.  Shade vs. sun according to three thermometers fluctuated 87 to 101.

July 21, 2020

19 wild horses were captured and there was one 1 death after a mare was euthanized due to a "pre-existing condition".

The first run of the day only a few horses were brought in. 

Several minutes passed and a foal could be seen being chased in by the helicopter. The BLM continues to violate it’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program (CAWP) which states the helicopters should not be pushing the horses faster than the slowest animal (usually foals or old horses). The helicopter and two wranglers on horseback were used to chase the foal.

On the second run of the day, a group of 3 wild horses (stallion, mare and foal) all entered the funnel. 

The helicopters ran the animals at a pace that caused the foal to fall behind. 

At the last minute, the stallion dodge the jute and because of the distance away from his mare and the release of the trained Judas horse, his family went into the trap without him. 

The stallion, affectionately called, Houdini, stayed around for a moment seeing his herd who were still trapped in the pen. He then took off around the mountain heartbreakingly leaving his family behind. 

On the third run of the day, one horse fell but recovered.

The lead horse saw a gap under the jute and went underneath, escaping. Sadly the other horses ran past the opening to freedom and into the trap and the horse that escaped the jute was caught later on the sixth run of the day. 

On the fourth run of the day, a group was captured seemingly without incident, but we could not see the trap to confirm no issues, with exception that foals continued to be at a noticeable distance from their herd. 

The fifth run of the day came very shortly after the last, and a foal was lagging behind. The helicopter came right over the foal to "push" into the final feet of the trap. Helicopter hovered over the scared little foal who was all alone in that moment.

Stressed horses in temporary holding.

July 20, 2020

AWHC's field representative was not onsite today. 47 horses were removed.

July 19, 2020

On this fifth day of the roundup, 61 horses were rounded up and removed. There were six members of the public present. 

On the second run of the day, a band of 9 wild horses were being stampeded toward the trap site. 

The herd moved ahead at a faster pace leaving a small foal and small brown pinto trailing behind. The foal which is usually the slowest animal inched ahead of the visibly tired pinto. 

Before reaching the corrals, the pinto collapses.

A wrangle works to bring the horse to her feet. 

While our field representative had eyes on the downed horse, the grey mare from the same band had apparently collided with the panels while in the trap and dropped to the ground. We were told by BLM that she had broken her neck and died. However, a few minutes later, the mare became alert and stood. It took a few minutes but she was able to get herself stabilized. 

PROPERTY OF AWHC

Throughout the day, horses continued to crash into panels as the BLM trap site remained unchanged. 

PROPERTY OF AWHC

Because the BLM continues to stampede helicopters faster than the slowest animal despite it's animal welfare policies, foals continue to fall behind and have to be brought in. One foal falls trying to keep up. 

The BLM is stampeded horses in too high of temperatures. BLM's own animal welfare guidelines state that helicopters should not run horses above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Throughout the day observers on the ground asked BLM to halt because it was too hot, but were challenged on the temperature outside. 

There continues to be no transparency. Members of the public are placed across the street to view the temporary corrals and view horse condition, then the contractors block the corrals with their vehicles.

PROPERTY OF AWHC

July 18, 2020

Tragedy struck today as horses were stampeded by helicopter at full speed into a dangerously small trap pen, causing multiple horses to crash into panels. One mare broke her neck and died and was callously dragged off by BLM wranglers.  

On this fourth day of the roundup, 89 wild horses were captured and there was one 1 death. AWHC and another observer were the only members of the public in attendance.

Today, the roundup contractors, Sampson Livestock set up a new trapsite that looks like one large run into a very small pen. (Generally the wings of the trap are sent in a funnel shape that narrows as it gets closer to the trap pen, which slows the horses down. In this configuration, horses run at full speed into the too-small trap pen, the gate is shut and chaos ensues.) 

PROPERTY OF AWHCPROPERTY OF AWHC

After the first run of the day, it became clear the pen was much too small and abrupt to safely accommodate groups of stressed horses. An advocate relayed concerns to BLM, but the BLM did not order the contractors to alter the configuration of the trap. 

**The following description contacts graphic imagery**

  • On the second run of the day,  a 5-year old mare crashed into the pen panel trying to escape. She fell and began to thrash her legs around after sustaining a broken neck.  
  • The contractors immediately brought out a white sheet and covered the still alive horse, as two children held the sheet up to obscure our view. No euthanasia was performed, we were told the mare died instantly.* 
  • An ATV was brought out, chains were tied to the horse's legs and the ATV  began to drag her behind it. 
  • A BLM Field Rep radioed in asking if there was a sled that could be used, none was available or provided. It was upsetting to see this mare's body literally dragged away. 

*While we were told that the mare died instantly, you can clearly see in the first two photos below that the horse is still moving her head/has her head up before the sheet is put over her, which was confirmed by our field rep. The photos and video compilation raise questions about whether the mare was actually deceased at the time of the dragging.

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

Even after the death of the mare, the trap remained unchanged and horses continued to crashing into panels. These horses seem more agitated than normal.

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

A foal, separated from his mother or orphaned by the helicopter chase, wandered in to the trap late, two wranglers wrestled him to the ground while waiting for a lasso. 

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

PROPERTY OF AWHC

BLM's thermometer read 92 degrees, but our field representative said that, in his experience at roundups and as a resident of Utah who enjoys the outdoors, it felt much hotter, closer to 100 degrees. Thermometers held by observers onsite recorded temperatures as high as 105 degrees. 

Read our press release on the operation here.

July 17, 2020

AWHC's field representative was onsite to document the third day of the Swasey wild horse roundup. 56 wild horses were captured. There were approx. 10 members of public in attendance. 

Of note:

swasey

SWASEY

swasey

SWASEy

SWASey

SWASEY

swasey

July 16, 2020

AWHC's field representative was onsite to document the second day of the Swasey wild horse roundup. Approximately 103 wild horses lost their freedom today, including a number of innocent foals. There were 6 members of public in attendance. 

The local brochure for Millard County boats a full page about "Wild Horse Viewing On the West Desert," clearly the locals are in support of the horses and can use it as wildlife tourism in a town that otherwise has very little attractions going for it (some fossils and caves and atv trails, and the wild horses). 

Of note: 

  • At one moment: A horse changed direction quickly in the day's first group of 4, and tripped and was trampled (photo of him getting up okay).
  • One foal dodged the jute and made it to freedom for a fleeting moment.
  • Three wranglers on horseback then gave chase and the foal was lassoed. They caught him by his neck was jerked by the lasso rope (see photos).
  • The 4 local observers in support of the foal said they want to adopt it and nicknamed it something like "Defiance." These locals were very polite, kind people living in a rustic part of the country wearing a traditional cowboy hat and were rooting for the freedom of the horses. It was great to see this support for animals living in freedom.
  • Another moment: A foal was picked up in the trap pen and carried into the final trap area.
  • The dust was so bad, another advocate verbally asked the BLM to water down the trap pen, and in response, the BLM asked the contractor -- who complied.
  • Temperature was supposedly reading 85 degrees down at the trap when we stopped, but our field representatives car was reading 93. Thermometers are all over the place, each different person with one (advocates, BLM etc) were getting different readings. There are heat bursts and swells from air pockets and difference of sun/shade and wind.

At holding:

  • At holding, as with yesterday, the contractor trucks pull up blocking our view of the pen (we are given a designated viewing area a few hundred feet from the holding).
  • Additionally, the jute around the holding pens obscures view so we cannot check on the condition of the horses, or if they have water, despite BLM offering us a very brief walk around.
  • The walk arounds seemed more so they can say "see we let you inspect the holding" but there isn't any visible view.
  • It was noted that the roundup contractor Shane Sampson held a recap meeting with his crew about things they can improve on or do different and it appears he was going over the lasso moment with the foal. given the hand gestures. 

253 wild horses (97 stallions, 70 mares, 20 foals) have been captured during this roundup so far.

SWASEY

swasey

FOAL

foal

swasey

TRUCK

July 15, 2020

AWHC's field representative was onsite to document the first day of the Swasey wild horse removal. Approximately 150 wild horses lost their freedom today. There were approximately 20 members of the public onsite including another advocacy group, field researchers, ranch operators, locals, and photography enthusiasts.

swasey

SWASEY

swasey

swasey

At a glance:

  • At one point during the chase to the trap pen: a mare swung/turned sharp and hit her foal. The foal was reported as okay later, but was observed napping in the holding pen.
  • Sometimes 30+ horses were captured at a time.
  • At one point: a horse ran full speed into the trap pen once he entered the compound.
  • The trap pen was larger, perhaps to accommodate the large groups, but it was observed this gives the horses room to pick up running speed from stopped to very fast where they then collide at a higher speed into the pen sides, and this extra room to run may keep them more agitated.
  • Temperatures: on stopping for the day (1pm), BLM thermometer was 92, contractor at pen was 92, but another field observer's was 97.
  • Some of the horses tried to jump out of the trap pen, as well as the holding pen.
  • Unlike in the Range Creek roundup this month that was conducted by the helicopter contractors known as the Cattoors, the contractors here had plenty of hay for the horses. 
  • The foals and mares will be kept in the holding pen over night, to give them a rest as well as food and water. 
  • It was observed a lot of foals were captured.
  • Cattle could be seen near the holding pen. 
  • A stallion and a band of wild horses roamed around the holding pen, which is near their watering hole.
  • There are a number of ponds and watering holes in the area, based on what the locals say.
  • At loading from the holding pen: One black horse kept backing down the ramp, not wanting to board the truck, repeatedly.