Roundup Report: The Wild Horses of The Pancake Complex

The Pancake Complex includes the Sand Springs West and Pancake Herd Management Areas (HMAs), Jakes Wash Herd Area (Herd Area), and Monte Cristo Wild Horse Territory (WHT) [a WHT is administered by the U.S. Forest Service] and spans over 1 million acres in Nevada. 

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) currently estimates that, without the 2021 foals, approximately 3,244 wild horses call the Complex home. However, the BLM’s unscientifically low Appropriate Management Level (AML) for the Complex – the number of horses the agency claims that the range can sustainably support in conjunction with other animals and resource uses – is 361-638 horses. 

Even while the helicopters remove our federally protected wild horses, and the BLM admits that it does not have the space in off-range holding to remove the population to low AML (the goal of the agency), the BLM continues to authorize thousands of cows and sheep to graze in the Complex. 

It is time for the BLM to manage wild horse habitat for the wild horses. 

This roundup will cost the taxpayers at least $642,540 to roundup 2,060 beloved horses from the Complex. Of that, only approximately 30 mares treated with PZP are planned for return to the Complex, so the removal will also bring along with it the lifetime cost according to the BLM's own estimates of approximately $97.4 million to house the remaining 2,030 horses for the remainder of their lives in government holding corrals. The contractor for this roundup is Cattoor Livestock Roundup Inc.

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 January 10, 2022. We will update this report as the operation progresses.


January 27, 2022: 134 wild horses were captured today. 

AWHC's field representative was one of two members of the public onsite. We met at 6:30 am In Ely NV. We traveled 124 Miles to the trap site. (39.094398,-116.023266 GPS location) arriving at 9:45 am. We waited for the rest of the trap to be put up and to be told where the observation location would be. We were given a choice of two locations: one having more view of the trap or setting out at a further distance to see wings. We choose to view the trap. We were placed approx a mile away from the trap.

The helicopter was in the air at 11:00 am. The winds were at 5mph and the temp was 34°f. The first run came in at 12:00 pm with 5 runs total ranging 15 to 30 min apart after. I was only able to view horses coming in from a far distance.

Of note: I feel that when two helicopters are being used bringing in herds within 15 min apart puts too many horses in the trap site at once causing confusion for the horses. There is not enough ample room and horses try to escape over the fencing. It gives too many opportunities for the horses to get injured and does not allow enough time for them to be properly separated for loading causing stress on the horses and a lot of handling for the people working trap. There appeared to be a lot of commotion going on inside of the trap but between the distance and the number of horses in the trap -- it was almost impossible to see anything.

We were not permitted to go to temp holding. Due to the distance of temp holding from the trap it took a little over two hours after the last run to get all the horses from trap to temp holding and it was late in the afternoon.

January 26, 2022: 66 wild horses were removed from public lands today.

AWHC's field representative was one of three members of the public onsite. The weather was between 21° F to 40°F wind at around 2 mph for the day. We met at 6:30 am in Meet location Ely, NV, Arrived at the observation site at 8:30 am. The helicopter was already in the air.

  • The first run came in around 10:30 am with approx. 25 horses
  • The next run was at 11:20 am with 8 horses. 3 split of from the herd and appeared to be very tired. The pilot continued on the three horses until they were brought into the trap
  • 12:24 pm, approx 8 horses were captured
  • 12:56 pm, 5 horses were brought in. There was an incident of a colt falling behind. The wranglers roped him and he was led into the trap with no issues. I did ask if we could have a field trip to trap after all horses were removed since it was not visible but was told that the trap would be moving and that all traps were constructed the same

We arrived at temp holding around 5:00 pm and it was getting dark. By the time we were permitted to view the horses, it was dusk and hard to see the condition of the horses or the pens. Pictures were limited due to not wanting to use flash on the camera and cause a scare to the horses.

January 25, 2022: No wild horses were removed today.

Report by photographer Darlene Smith for AWHC.

We left Ely at 6:30 AM and traveled nearly 2 hours to the observation site. It was windy, so we waited in our vehicles to see if it would stop. After 2 hours, they called it off. On my drive back to town, I came upon a few horses still enjoying being free. I hope they stay that way.

January 24, 2022: 38 wild horses were captured and there were no deaths reported today. 

Report by photographer Darlene Smith for AWHC.

We left at 6:30 AM to travel to the new observation site 94 miles West of Ely, NV. Along the way, I saw a few horses scattered over the vast landscape and at one point a small band of 6 ran across the road in front of us. They were so beautiful.

We traveled to a different area, so they remain free for now. After nearly 2 hours of driving, we pulled off the road and waited over another hour while they looked for a trap site. I was told that last night when the contractors were attempting to locate the new site, one of their trucks slid and got stuck in the mud to the point they had to wait for the tractor to pull them out, so locating a new site and set up was delayed until this morning.

The observation site was located about 94 miles West of Ely, NV. We were positioned just off the dirt road that the trap was located on.

Another 1.5 hours passed before the trap was set up and we finally arrived at the observation site at 10:50 AM. At that time, the helicopter went searching for horses.

  • Run 1 came in at 12:11 PM of about 17 horses.
  • At 12:42 we spotted the second group heading in.
  • Around 1/2 mile from the trap, a black stallion broke away and ran the opposite way. The helicopter didn't go back for him.
  • A couple more horses broke away near the trap while about 9 horses went in. The pilot then went and got the couple that broke away close to the trap and brought them in shortly after.
  • The pilot then went and fueled up at 1:09 and then departed again. The helicopter was gone for about an hour when run 3 came into view.
  • There were a dozen horses that were moving at a slower trot and the helicopter was keeping a distance from them. When they got near the trap, 4 went into the wings of the trap at 2:33 PM, and the rest broke off and headed back in the direction they came from.
  • He circled back for them and they were brought in within 10 minutes. The pilot fueled up again and left.
  • At 3:14 we were told they were done for today and we could head to temp holding.

We traveled about 23 miles from the trap site to the temporary holding area. There were 2 BLM employees on site that took us around temp holding. Horses had enough space and had food and water.  No visible injuries were noticed and none were reported to us. We did not see a vet on site. The horses were mostly calm other than a couple of stallions who weren’t happy being in the same pen.

January 23, 2022: 17 wild horses were captured today.

Report by photographer Darlene Smith for AWHC.

We once again left Ely, Nevada promptly at 6:30 AM to travel 35 miles to the trap site. Once we arrived, we waited about 90 minutes while the helicopter was scouting for horses. Evidently, the group they were looking for had moved from yesterday's location. Just before 9AM, the first run came in from the opposite direction as yesterday. This enabled us to view more of the approach.

There were 6 horses in the first run. At one point a couple of bays ran through a deeper drift of snow and got off balance. They did not fall and continued to run normally. There was a foal that came in at the end of that group about 15 seconds behind the rest. The helicopter left for about 30 minutes before bringing in run two with 4 horses from the same area as the first run.

The helicopter then left for over an hour to look for more horses. At about 10:40 AM run three came in from the direction where we couldn't observe the approach. There were 7 horses in this group with 2 very small foals bringing up the rear. One looked to be less than a couple of months old. The helicopter left once more to scout for horses, but none were found so they called it a day right before noon.

We were unable to go to temporary holding today because we were told yesterday that they do not take people there except maybe twice a week due to time and resources, and we went yesterday. They will also be moving the trap to a new location.

January 22, 2022: 80 wild horses were captured and there was 1 death after the BLM euthanized a 20-year-old bay stallion who suffered a break as a result of the roundup. 

Report by photographer Darlene Smith for AWHC.

We departed Ely, Nevada promptly at 6:30 AM. We traveled 45 minutes to the observation area of Jakes Wash. It was a bitter 15° with light winds. We waited about 40 minutes on the main road until the route was scouted by BLM. They returned and stated there were a couple of deep snow drifts so we could attempt to get to the observation site or stay where we were. We decided to try it so that we could get closer to the trap. Otherwise, we would have been about 2 miles away. We made it through and were situated about 1/2 mile above the trap. Although we had pretty good visibility of the wings and the trap, we couldn't see any of the approach due to a bluff blocking our view. AWHC's field rep was one of two members of the public onsite. 

We occasionally could see the helicopter above the bluff, but we mostly relied on the Judas horses to notify us when the helicopter was near since we couldn't hear it or see it most of the time. Once we saw the Judas horses being situated, we knew it was time. The helicopter brought the first run in about 8:40 AM. There were around 15 beautiful horses in that group. They were loaded onto a trailer and then were pulled away from the pen so another trailer could pull up. As they pulled away, they became stuck in a deep snowdrift and had to be pulled out a bit. This seemed to agitate the horses even more and at one point, a palomino reared up in the trailer exposing his head through the top bars. Thankfully he got down ok.

The second run of about 25 came in at 9:17 AM and was also loaded. Both loaded trailers stayed there until the third run came 30 minutes later. They were then loaded and all 3 trailers left for temporary holding together. The helicopter left for a little bit, we assume to refuel. Runs four, five and six all came in 30-40 minutes apart. Each run had smaller groups. They called it a day at about 12:35 PM.

We were then taken to temporary holding which required us to drive back to Ely and then another hour to get there. We could have taken a short cut but the roads were rough and snow-covered so we elected to go the safer route. Once at temp holding we waited about an hour before we could view the horses so they could feed and water. We did see the water truck arrive and all had fresh feed.

When the first group was loaded on the trailer, while moving away from the pens the trailer got stuck and had to be pulled out. The back and forth motion agitated the horses on board and one palomino reared up exposing his head above the top bars. He got back down ok.

January 21, 2022: No wild horses were captured today. 

January 20, 2022: 37 wild horses were captured today.

January 19, 2022: 29 wild horses lost their freedom today. 

January 18, 2022: 73 wild horses were captured today and there was one death after BLM euthanized a 6 year old bay mare for being blind in one eye.

January 17, 2022: 85 wild horses were rounded up and removed today and there were no deaths reported.

January 16, 2022: 114 wild horses were captured today and there were no deaths

We met at the meet-up location at 6:15 am in Ely Nevada. We then traveled 53 Miles to the observation site. 

Today there was no visibility of the trap or the loading. The trap was placed in a gully and there were trees obstructing my view.  I raised my concerns to the BLM staff onsite. The lack of visibility is concerning as the most dangerous part of the operation is when the horses enter the trap and we as observers can’t see if horses are getting injured, especially when 20-30 horses are being brought in at once. 


January 15, 2022: No wild horses were removed today.

There was no roundup today and AWHC's field rep asked the BLM about going to see the captured horses in temporary holding, as we have only been permitted once. As we pulled up to temporary holding at 8:45 AM, (3) semi-trucks were pulling out. A majority of the horses had already been loaded and were leaving. 

BLM said that the horses brought in yesterday, had a body condition score of 5 which is ideal. They stated that this temporary holding has two extra pens so is a little larger area than at most temporary holding setups. Capacity is approximately 200 to 250 horses.

Four mares that were captured and were previously treated with fertility control were re-treated with PZP-22 and released today. 

January 14, 2022: 135 wild horses were captured today and there were 2 deaths: A 4-year-old bay mare was euthanized by BLM for being blind, and an over 20-year old mare was euthanized due to poor body condition.

AWHC's representative was one of two members of the public onsite today. Our meeting location was located two hours away from the trap site, which was in a different location today. We were able to see the wings of the trap, however, they have snow fencing up to the top of the trap which restricts any viewing into the trap/corral itself.

Snow fencing.

We were not allowed to go up to a higher location because, according to BLM, we may distract the horses when being brought in.  

Our "view" of the trap.

The temperature was between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. We met BLM at the meeting site at 6:15 am and drove to the observation site. We had to wait on the side of the road for the trap to be set up, which took nearly two hours. 

The runs:

  • The first band of horses was brought in at 10:48 am, approx 25 horses
  • 11:05 am 6 horses
  • 11:17 am 8 horses
  • 11:48 approx 25 horses
  • 12:46 pm approx 10 horses
  • 1:09 9 horses
  • 2:09 pm approx 29 horses
  • 2:30 approx 25 horses

We were not permitted to go to holding again today. According to BLM, they have to disassemble the trap. 

January 13, 2022: 75 wild horses were captured and there were 

  • 8-year-old bay stallion was euthanized by the BLM for having a broken leg, which the agency said was "pre-existing".
  • 3-year-old bay mare was euthanized by the BLM for having a swayback (a non-lethal condition).
  • 20+ year old bay mare was euthanized by the BLM for being unable to maintain body condition.  

AWHC's observer was one of two members of the public onsite today.

The main issue is distance and that the horses are brought in from very far away. It's been hard to see and monitor what is happening.

There was one instance where a foal fell behind and a mare went back after him however helicopter did not peruse them.

One band brought in at the end of the day seemingly had a yearling led the band all the way in.

To our observer, it appeared that the pilots were being more cautious than usual. BLM made a correction to their statement yesterday: 400 horses are going to Sutherland UT, the next 800 are going to PVC holding outside of Reno, and the last 800 are going to Indian Lakes in Fallon, Nevada. There were approximately 7 runs today. The trap will be moved to a different location tomorrow

January 12, 2022: 147 wild horses were captured and there were two deaths.

  • A 3-year-old bay stallion died unexpectedly due to a "pre-existing condition" according to the BLM but did not elaborate on what the pre-existing condition was no how the horse died unexpectedly
  • A 3-year-old bay mare was euthanized by BLM due to an acute condition which they deemed "undiagnosed"

AWHC's observer was one of two members of the public onsite today. The temperature was 25° in the morning but it eventually warmed up to 45° by end of day.

The runs:

  • The first run the horses were observed coming in at 9:09 AM and brought into the trap at 9:30 AM. A second group came in by another helicopter observed between 9:40 AM and 10 AM.
  • At 10:12 AM our observer heard a helicopter in distance, however, horses were not in view until 11:11 AM, and were finally captured at 11:40 AM.
  • The helicopters then grounded to refuel.
  • At 12:55 PM a small herd was brought into rap, and another came in at 2:30 PM. The day was called at around 3:00 PM.

Of note:

  • According to our observer, the path of the horse being brought in is very far away from the trap. The BLM takes them into the trap behind a hill and they are unable to see the entrance to the wings. 
  • Some horses appeared to have trouble loading or in the trailer.
  • We were not permitted at temp holding today.

January 11, 2022: 157 horses were captured and there were two deaths.

AWHC observer was one of two members of the public onsite at the Pancake Complex roundup. When she arrived at the BLM observation point, it was 22 degrees outside. This roundup is being conducted by Cattoor livestock. Today, observers were placed approximately .25 miles away from the trap. 

There were three runs. The horses were all run from a distance naked to the eye. AWHC’s observers could visibly see the breath from nostrils as they approached.  During one of the runs, 3 horses were pushed in by helicopter and one fell behind. Despite this, the helicopter continued to push until the yearling could no longer run. 

During the final run of the day, one yearling broke its leg and was euthanized. To our observer, It was obvious the yearlings leg was broken. The wranglers came out to rope the baby. It appeared they roped him and got him to the ground. It took them approximately 20 minutes or so to get out to the horse and another approximately 10 minutes for the vet to arrive. Then they brought a truck and trailer and placed it in front of the observers while they euthanized the yearling.