In remote eastern Nevada, a familiar tragedy is unfolding. Government contracted helicopters are descending on vast, 1.6 million-acre expanse of public land known as the Triple B Complex, where thousands of wild horses live.
The goal of the roundup is to remove up to 1,800 of these iconic mustangs from their natural habitat in an effort to reduce the wild horse population on rangelands where approximately 7,300 privately-owned cattle or 36,000 sheep are authorized to graze either wholly or partially within the wild horse Complex each year. Powerful ranchers, like the Goicoechea family (State Senator Pete Goicoechea and his son former Nevada State Veterinarian JJ Goicoechea) hold permits to graze their livestock on our public lands in the area at vastly below market rates that are subsidized with our tax dollars. The more political clout these federally-subsidized ranchers have, the more likely they are to secure large wild horse roundups on the public lands where their livestock graze.
August 13-14, 2022: No roundup operations occurred today.
August 12, 2022: 72 wild horses were captured.
August 11, 2022: 74 horses were captured today.
August 10, 2022: 76 wild horses were captured and there were two deaths after a Sorrel foal died unexpectedly due to colic and the BLM euthanized a 5-year-old Sorrel mare for having a "pre-existing" broken front leg.
August 9, 2022: 100 wild horses were captured and there was a 7-year-old bay mare died after she suffered a broken neck.
August 8, 2022: 41 wild horses were captured and there was 1 death after the BLM euthanized a 7-year-old mare for missing her left eye.
August 7, 2022: 79 horses lost their freedom.
August 6, 2022: No roundup today due to heavy rains.
August 5, 2022: 12 wild horses were captured.
August 4, 2022: 39 wild horses were captured and there were 2 deaths after the BLM euthanized a 1-year-old Sorrel filly for havig colic and a 20+-year-old Dun stallion who the BLM euthanized for being blind, and missing a right eye.
August 3, 2022: 49 wild horses were captured.
August 2, 2022: 67 horses were captured today and there was 1 death: a bay filly was euthanized by the BLM for "lameness -- weak tendons". This brings the death toll so far to 14.
August 1, 2022: 28 wild horses were captured today.
July 31, 2022: 37 wild horses were captured today.
July 30, 2022: The helicopters did not fly today.
July 29, 2022: The helicopters did not fly today.
July 28, 2022: 76 wild horses were captured today and two were euthanized. One 20+-year-old Bay stallion and one 20+-year-old Sorrel mare were euthanized due to pre-existing conditions.
The following report is from photographer and AWHC field observer Darlene Smith.
Today was an extremely long day. We met again at 4:45 AM 40 miles outside of Ely, Nevada. We arrived at the observation site at 6:10 AM which was located 110 miles Northwest of Ely.
At 6:26 AM I saw dust rising and horses running in from a couple of miles away. At 6:36 AM, 10 entered the trap. 20 minutes later, 6 more entered.
At 7:25 AM, about 8 were seen coming down a bluff and into the valley. They entered the trap at 7:49 AM. The pilot refueled until 8:05.
I could hear the helicopter but not see it until 8:46 AM when I spotted it hovering near a rocky slope on the mountain right behind the trap. I had no visual of the horses until they actually entered the wings. About 10 entered at 8:53 AM.
The helicopter was gone over 45 minutes before he came in sight again at 9:35 AM. He was moving horses through the trees about 1/2 mile south of the trap. 8 went into the trap 10 minutes later. The pilot refueled until 10:00 AM.
The helicopter disappeared for another hour. I saw it again at 11:06 AM and he was pushing 4 horses toward the trap. They entered a few minutes later. I couldn’t see any of the approaches so I have no idea how long during that hour they had been running. They are bringing them from the other side of the ridge, which is completely out of sight. The temperature is now 93°F.
At 12:30 PM he drove a beautiful band of 6 containing whites and buckskins including a young foal out the foothills. They had broken off from a group that was caught yesterday so I was sad to see them caught today. As they got closer to the trap, the foal was lagging behind. At 12:40 PM, 5 went in the trap but the foal did not. I lost track of it in the trees. The helicopter went back out and circled. Wranglers went into the trees but I could not see anything. I inquired about the foal and was told it was roped behind the trap and was fine. We had no visual.
At 12:55 PM the pilot drove one horse down from the foothills. He got close to the trap but escaped again into the trees. Clouds have moved in and lowered the temperature so they are going to fly longer today. At 2:00 PM, approximately 8 black and bay horses were spotted running in. They entered the trap at 2:14 PM.
The sun was now back out and it was 93°F.
Over an hour passed and then I saw a few horses coming in at 3:30 PM. They went into the trap at 3:48 PM. The pilot went back out and attempted to get one in that I hadn’t seen following the others. He must have broken off near the trees. He looked either injured or completely exhausted. He just stood there as the helicopter swirled dust from above. Wranglers went out and they caught him a couple of minutes later. They stayed in one spot for about 10 minutes before starting to walk him in. I didn’t have a good visual due to the distance to see what was going on. He walked in very slowly and would often just stop and stand there. I lost sight of him as he entered the wings due to trees.
At 4:25 PM, Approximately 8 horses and another group of 4 were being run toward the trap from a couple of miles away. I do not know how far they’d come before I saw them. They were moving slowly. At 4:40 the first 4 went into the trap. The other 8 entered at 4:52 PM. By the time they reached the wings, they were walking very slowly.
They were finally done flying today. If I wanted to go to temp holding, I was told I’d have to wait for the remaining trailers to leave the trap for holding. Then there was still no guarantee I’d be able to walk around due to the late hour and the horses still needing to be processed. I stayed.
An hour later we headed to temp holding. I inquired about the horse that had to be roped and slowly walked in. They said it was an older stud, very emaciated and he was euthanized. I checked on the foal that was separated and it was back with his dam and appeared ok. Horses were calm, had food and water, body scores between 3-5. I left temp holding at 6:40 PM and drove two hours back to Ely. Very long day. We were told there will be no flying on Friday the 29th due to FAA inspection.
July 27, 2022: 47 wild horses were captured and two were euthanized. The BLM euthanized a 20+-year-old Sorrel mare for severe tooth loss; unable to maintain or improve a BCS 3. The second horse euthanized was a 3-year-old Sorrel mare for being blind.
AWHC observer Darlene Smith is onsite at the Triple B roundup. Below is here report.
We left our meeting spot 40 miles North of Ely at 4:45 AM and traveled 70 miles Northwest to the same trap location as Tuesday. They put us a tiny bit farther down the road. But that actually made it harder than the day prior to see the horses as they were hauled to temp holding. This observation site is impossible to view anything meaningful from. The trap is over 1.5 miles away completely obscured in the trees and the only way we know if horses enter is by the cloud of dust that rises from the trees as the helicopter swoops them in. But there is no way of knowing if they all went in, or if a foal was separated, etc...
About 7:00 AM I saw the helicopter hovering near a canyon. I soon saw 6 horses making their way down a rocky slope. They kept running back up and into the canyon out of sight. After a 20-minute pursuit up and down, the pilot left them to go find others.
7:30 AM. 4 horses were run toward the trap. One lagged a little behind and veered off by himself as the others turned toward the trap. The other 3 entered the trap at 7:51 AM. The one horse got away. The pilot refueled until 8:04 AM.
At 8:41 AM, 5 entered the trap. 3 minutes later, another 8 were caught. There were 2 small foals in that group. The pilot refueled until 9:05 AM.
At 9:33 AM, I spotted 7 running in from the opposite mountain range that was farther away. At 9:49 AM, 5 went into the trap. The other 2 ran north of the trap. The pilot went back out for them and brought them in just 5 minutes later. The pilot refueled until 10:18 AM
The helicopter disappeared for an hour before I saw him at 11:15 AM. 11 horses are spotted at this time but I have no idea how long they’d already been pursued. They were coming from a much farther distance. The last horse (a beautiful black stallion) veered away about 1.5 miles from the trap and ran to the East of the trap. Every so often, he would stop and look toward the rest of his band being pushed into the trap. He was still free, but now alone. 10 entered trap at 11:28 AM. Shortly after, 4 more were spotted heading toward the wings, including a very small foal. All 4 entered the trap at 11:40 AM.
At 11:55 AM, 3 horses were being pursued. The lead horse broke away in the opposite direction. The pilot pursued the other two, what appeared to be a mare and a yearling. The two entered the trap at 12:08 PM at a slow pace. I’m sure after running for a few miles in 93° heat, they were exhausted. The lead horse remained free but alone.
We were done with another difficult day of viewing due to distance. We had to wait on-site for the trailers to leave the trap. The first 2 trailers of horses left from the trap to temp holding at 12:24 PM. The last at 1:20 PM.
We then followed them to temp holding and arrived at 1:50 PM. They were watering down the pens. We waited until 2:30 and then walked around. Horses were calm, and had food and water. There were a lot of young foals today. It is definitely still foaling season. I asked how they go about choosing which horses will be returned to the range. He commented that they generally choose mares over age 10 to release back because the younger ones are more adoptable.
Unfortunately, we will be returning to the same observation site for a third day on Thursday.
July 26, 2022: 52 wild horses lost their freedom today.
We met 40 miles North of Ely at 4:45 AM and then traveled an additional 70 miles Northwest to a new trap site. We had to pull off the road at about 6:10 AM because the helicopter was already flying and had horses he was pushing to trap. We had to watch from miles away which was impossible to see clearly. I had no idea if any horses were already caught at this point. We finally arrived at the observation point around 6:45 AM which wasn’t much better. We were still over 1.5 miles away and the trap was in the trees with no visibility. If you looked very carefully, you could barely make out part of one wing. This was the worst observation site I've ever been to.
At 7:20 AM, I could see 9 horses being run in. As they approached the trap, they dispersed into the trees and were no longer visible. I followed the helicopter and then saw 7 emerge from the trees heading the opposite direction from the trap. The pilot pursued but they fled higher on the mountain. The pilot aborted the run and left for fuel at 8:10, nearly an hour after the pursuit began.
At 8:30 AM I saw the helicopter over the same ridge he’d left the prior run at. He was pursuing the same group again.
8:45 AM, 3 went into the trap.
8:47 AM, 6 went into the trap.
The helicopter hovered on the mountain and would disappear into a canyon for the next 30 minutes. I could then see a few horses making their way down the rocky mountainside behind the trap. At 9:30 AM, about 5 entered the trap. The pilot left and refueled again.
A trailer hauling the first group to temp holding came by. The road looked quite rough. They stopped for a few minutes. I observed the driver grab a stick off a bush and poke it into the trailer. The BLM then drove up and assisted. I asked what had happened and he said a horse fell down in the back and they used the stick to prompt her to get back up. He said she had been kicked in the face. As the trailer passed I could see blood on that horse's head.
For another 30 minutes, I once again could see the helicopter hovering over the mountain in and out of canyons. At 10:10 AM I could see a couple of small groups of horses heading down the mountain. At 10:30 AM one of those groups of about 4 entered the trap. The others fled to the trees.
The helicopter disappeared over the mountain and was out of sight for almost an hour. At 11:20 I could again see a couple of small groups heading down the mountain. At 11:35 about 6 entered the trap. 2 minutes later, 2 more entered. 10 minutes later, another 6 entered.
At 12:16 PM, 8 horses were spotted coming down the mountain. At 12:29 PM they entered the trap. The temperature was now reaching 92° F.
At 12:58 PM, another 5-6 went into the trap.
At 1:45, the last 3 for today were caught. The temperature had now climbed to 94°.
They were done flying for the day.
Due to distance, temperature, and heat distortion, it was a very difficult day for viewing. Unfortunately, we will be back at the same site on Wednesday.
On the trailer going from trap to temp holding, the road was quite bumpy and a mare fell down. They used a flag and stick to help get her up. When they came by closer I could see blood on her face. BLM said she had been kicked.
We had to wait onsite for a couple of hours before seeing temp holding.
At temp holding, horses were fed and watered. A couple of stallions were agitated. We were told the mare that was injured in the trailer was looked at by the vet and was fine. Another observer asked to be sent a photo of the mare and was denied that request.
July 25, 2022: 19 wild horses lost their freedom today and two lost their lives. One 6-year-old Palomino stallion died unexpectedly due to a broken neck and the BLM euthanized a 10-year-old Sorrel mare due to a clubbed foot.
July 24, 2022: 42 wild horses were captured.
July 23, 2022: The helicopters did not fly today.
July 22, 2022: 37 wild horses were captured today. Two young foals lost their lives. A 4-month-old Dun foal was euthanized due to a pre-existing fractured right front leg. Another 4-month-old Bay foal was euthanized for a "pre-existing deformity -- congenital lax flexor tendons."
July 21, 2022: 69 wild horses were captured today.
July 20, 2022: 41 wild horses were chased into traps today. One was euthanized due to a "pre-existing fractured right front leg."
July 19, 2022: 56 wild horses were captured today and three lost their lives. A 20+ year-old sorrel stallion was euthanized for a pre-existing fractured right front leg, a 5-year-old bay stallion was euthanized for a pre-existing, sway back, and a 5-year-old bay mare was euthanized for a pre-existing fractured back.
July 18, 2022: 39 wild horses lost their freedom today.
July 17, 2022: 43 wild horses were captured today.
July 16, 2022: The helicopters did not fly today.
July 15, 2022: 19 wild horses were captured and there were 2 deaths: a 6-year-old Palomino stallion died after suffering a broken neck, and the BLM euthanized a healthy 10-year-old Sorrel mare for having a club foot.
I met the BLM at 4:45 AM 40 miles North of Ely and then traveled another 40 miles Northwest to the trap site. We arrived at trap at about 5:45 AM. Not long after we arrived, they watered down the trap area to cut down dust. The trap was a little over 1/2 mile away from observation. I could see the entire trap and left wing but little to none of the approach leading up to the trap.
I heard the helicopter at 6am but didn’t see any horses until right as they entered the wings at 7:15 AM. Run 1 was about 7 horses. As they were loading the trailer, one black horse tried unsuccessfully to jump over the panels.
Run 2 came in at 7:45 AM of just 2 horses. As they entered the wings, one veered off and tumbled over the left wing and escaped. The pilot went after him and immediately brought him back in. The pilot landed until 8 AM. Horses were loaded onto the trailer and one became very agitated and kept kicking another. They let them back out of the trailer into the trap and then reloaded them again before leaving for temp holding.
We later found out at temp holding that they removed the horse that was the subject of the aggressive stallion and loaded him with the foals. The aggressor was then loaded first with different stallions and the fighting subsided.
The pilot was gone over an hour before I could hear the helicopter again. At 9:20 AM I saw about 10 horses coming in. I do not know how long they were being pushed before they came into sight due to terrain. They entered the trap at 9:30 am. At 10:30 AM they called it a day since they are changing trap sites for Tuesday.
We then went to temp holding that was 21 miles from the trap site. We waited outside the gates for an hour until we could walk around. I could see them watering down the pens for dust, feeding and watering. Horses seemed mainly calm. No injuries seen or reported to us.
July 24, 2022: 42 wild horses were captured today.
July 23, 2022: No roundup was conducted today.
July 22, 2022: 37 wild horses were captured today and there were two deaths after a 4-month-old dun foal was euthanized by the BM because of a “pre-existing” fractured right front leg and a 4-month-old bay foal was euthanized by the BLM because of a “pre-existing” deformity -- congenital lax flexor tendons.
The BLM is keeping public observers at an extreme distance — conservatively about 1.5 miles away from where the wild horses are being trapped. It is almost impossible to see anything due to distance and the heat disturbance through the camera lens. The contractors, Cattoor Livestock (who is also rounding up horses in Piceance Basin) continue to obstruct what little we can see with their wrangler horses and/or trailers, making it even more difficult to assess if any injuries are happening when the horses come into the trap.
Wild horses are coming in sweaty and from far distances. The temperatures are reaching 95 degrees.
On Thursday, foals were continuing to fall behind, unable to keep up. Two had to be roped and brought in, and we received word that both of them died.
Finally, when the contractors drive the trailers past, they are whizzing past us at a fast rate with scared wild animals inside.
July 21, 2022: 69 wild horses were captured today.
AWHC’s field representative was 1 of 2 observers onsite today. Today the roundup was taking place in the Maverick Medicine HMA 100 Miles NE of Ely, NV. The trap site was located approx a mile and a half away and was not visible to the naked eye from where we were placed. We couldn;t see the trap area well enough to view the construction of trap or see the horses being brought in. Throughout the day, there were times that the helicopter was out for over a hour before bringing next herd in.
We met the BLM at the Shelbourne Rest area 50 Mikes E of Ely NV. Traveled 50 NE to observation area arriving around 6:10 am.
At 6:24 am the helicopter was in the air and we could hear it in the far distance. Throughout the day they brought in herds that each had at least one foal in every run struggling to keep up amongst the other horses, confusion and dust. Two foals had to be roped and brought in.
The last run of the day the temp was at 94 degrees at the trap site. Temps for the day was between 64 Degrees F to 95 degrees F. The limitations and distance with the conditions and weather have been set at a 8-10 Miles distance from trap. All horses coming in have a body score of 5-6 with 1 being poor and 9 being obese. 5 and 6 are moderate to moderate fleshy.
As the horse trailers drove by our observing area it was at a very fast speed for hauling horses that have never been on a trailer before.
July 20, 2022: 41 wild horses were captured and there was 1 death after a 2-year-old bay mare died unexpectedly. A Necropsy was conducted and found a compromised lung (respiratory pneumonia).
We met BLM at the Shelbourne rest area at 4:30 am. Traveled approx 50 miles to the observation site. Temperature ran 57 to 92 degrees.
AWHC's observer was one of 4 observers on site to document/view the operations. We are approx a mile and a half from the trap. It's a very long distance for viewing. In the afternoon the heat waves in the air make it almost impossible to view, and the Cattoors have been bringing horses in at quite a distance as well.
There has been a lot of foals and pregnant mares coming in.
July 19, 2022: 56 wild horses lost their freedom today and there were 3 deaths: BLM euthanized a 20+-year-old sorrel stallion for a "pre-existing" fractured right front leg, the agency euthanized a healthy 5-year-old bay stallion for having a sway back, and the contractors euthanized a 5-year-old bay mare for having a "pre-existing" fractured back.
AWHC's field observer was 1 of 3 members of the public onsite. Our field observer met BLM at 4:30 am at the Shelbourne rest area where they then followed in approx 50 miles NE to trap. Temperatures for the day were between 60 to 95 degrees F. The observer noted that some of the horses being brought in were perused a little long in the heat. Quite a few foals were in the bands. Temp got up to 95 degrees at times.
We were not permitted to see temporary holding.
July 18, 2022: 39 wild horses were captured today.
AWHC's field observer was 1 of 3 members of the public onsite. We met the BLM at 4:30 am at Shelbourne rest area, and traveled NE into Butte Valley for an hour and a half. Temp was between 56 to 95 degrees F. during the day.
We were placed approximately 160 yards away from the trapsite. Horses appear to be in excellent body condition.
- 6:30 am: 6 horses
- 7:11 am: 10 Horses
- 9:06 am :10 horses
- 10:42 am: 7 horses
- Final run: 6 horses
Horses evaded the trap by breaking off from the herd being brought in. Foals were keeping up with bands/herd being brought in. The helicopter pursued 3 horses for approx 30 min and gave up. Tomorrow trap location will change.
July 17, 2022: 43 wild horses lost their freedom today.
AWHC’s observer was one of four members of the public on-site at the Triple B wild horse roundup. She reported that the trap was completely visible and there were quite a few horses brought in, but many evaded capture. The last part of the day was very windy with clouds moving in and sprinkling. The trap was set up and appeared to be constructed well and watered down. Our observer reported that the first 900 Horses will be transported to Southerland off range corral for processing and will be available for adoption there
July 16, 2022: Helicopters did not fly today and no horses were removed.
July 15, 2022: We met with BLM at the Shelbourne Rest Area 44 Miles N of Ely, NV. We arrived at observation site around 7:00am. At approximately 7:30 am we were told the helicopter had mechanical issues. No Flying today, but was able to tour the trap today. BLM explained the different areas of the trap. Upon leaving we did notice some barbed wire down by the entrance of the wing. We will see if the fencing will be flagged tomorrow.