Letter to the Editor: Wild horse gather a tragedy

Dear Editor:
I did not respond to the newspaper articles that were written before or during the roundup. I did not see a need to respond to name calling. It serves no purpose. This is about principles, not personalities. My goal is to document the events at the roundup.
A wild horse tragedy on West Douglas:

Pounding hooves, stallion screams, terror-filled eyes, foals crying, “whup-whup-whup” of the helicopter motor, attempted escapes, successful and unsuccessful escapes, sweaty, exhausted horses shoved into trailers and separated foals and mares crying out to each other.
These are just some of the sights and sounds from western Colorado’s West Douglas Wild Horse Roundup, Sept. 16-24, 2015. As I watched helplessly, these incredible wild horses, whose ancestors have lived in this valley for three centuries, lost everything that is important to them in a few short moments: families, freedom and their heritage—the values most Americans value most. I have been following these horses for the last 20 years, and I’ve watched their tight family bond, only to be needlessly separated from their families in this senseless event.
Horses have lived on West Douglas for three centuries and we know this because the Spanish explorers Dominguez and Escalante recorded in their diary that they were met with Indians on horseback when they rode into this valley in 1776; this is a great historic value to our region and to our state.
Their population has stabilized through the years due to predators and natural deaths, contrary to what the BLM claims—that they have no natural predators. Of course wild horses have natural predators. This area contains mountain lions, bears, coyotes and even an occasional wolf.
Nature has taken good care and controlled this herd for a very long time. What about that mountain lion I watched streak across the road? He isn’t going to prey on the foals? It’s common knowledge that mountain lions are the primary natural control of most wild horse herds—if they are not allowed to be overhunted.
In spite of their history and this background, the roundup did begin Sept. 16. The first day, public observers were met by cordial BLM public relations officers and we had a decent viewing site to the contractors’ operations. We were carefully scrutinized by armed BLM Rangers, even when we went to the porta-potty.
On the final day, something changed. There was a distinct shift in the demeanor of the BLM—even a coldness. We weren’t sure what the reason was, as nothing had changed in our observation activities. Nobody was out of line except for an occasional profane word.
We never threatened the operation at any point and we always followed directions regarding where we should remain to observe. We moved to several different observation sites during the week. One site was so far away we could barely see the trailers and the pens. The next day was a little better. Even though they were rounding up horses on private property, the property owner/rancher forbade us to view on his land. It is OK for them to graze their cattle on public lands for a pittance—$1.65 a month for a cow/calf pair. We would have gladly paid them $1.65 to watch from a closer vantage point from their land.
What are the incidents that stand out:
A flaxen-maned sorrel stallion (a favorite to see by 139) was chased by a helicopter for 1.5 hours before the contractor caught him.When they finally got him in the trailer, he fell (could this be from exhaustion?) and another stallion stepped on him and broke his neck. The stallion died within minutes.
On another day, a tiny foal was run so hard that he was roped, and he was lame by the time the contractor roped him and walked him to the corrals—an hour after the chase began. After transporting him to the temporary corrals in a trailer an hour away, they determined that he indeed had a broken leg and they shot that baby. All he was doing was trying to figure out how to get to his mother.
Another incident involved another foal and mare. The foal was chased into the trap, but the mother managed to escape. The BLM veterinarian announced that the foal was not of weanable age, and the contractor should go back out and find her. They never found her, so this foal was subsequently orphaned at a too-young age. Will it survive? 
To complicate their stressed bodies, these horses were fed alfalfa-grass hay. Anyone who knows anything about wild horses knows that you only feed them what they are used to eating—grass hay. Wild horses should not be fed alfalfa; it’s much too hard on their digestive system and they are already in a stressed condition. Wild horses can easily die from this combination.
At the end of each day, we were allowed to visit the temporary holding pens. It was at this time that we observed lots of diarrhea, probably due to a combination of diet and stress according to one of the observers who is an equine veterinarian. There is no one in this BLM office, and apparently not with the contractor, who is a wild horse expert and would know these facts.
The great people of this nation need to be aware of what is going on out West with our wild horses. Horse advocates are a diverse group of people—ranchers, teachers, horse trainers, public workers, lawyers and lots of kids.
This roundup was initiated to appease two local ranchers who claimed the horses abuse the land. Everything makes an impact on our public land—livestock, energy exploration, recreation, people, as well as horses.
Cattle are responsible for the largest majority of the range degradation, when only 2 percent of the beef raised on BLM lands is eaten by Americans. I do not think we need to lose our wild horses so ranchers can abuse more land. Grazing allotments are the primary factor responsible for this wild horse eradication.
Wild horse advocate hearts are very heavy now and will be for a long time. Even a television reporter doing a story about the roundup had a difficult time composing himself and staying objective when doing his job reporting on the roundup. So many BLM misrepresentations were used as reasons for this roundup, and very few horses are now left in West Douglas.
Basically, our community and country have lost an entire wild horse herd with the exception of the few that escaped capture. We must focus on making sure that the complete eradication of a wild horse herd will never happen again. We must also work to make sure that this form of inhumane abuse will not occur again. The terror in the eyes of those horses was all one had to see to realize that helicopter roundups must stop and contractors must be held to the highest humane practices in handling and caring for America’s wild horses.
Update: The orphaned foal is doing OK. 
It was also stated in a previous article that these horses were not sweating after being run for miles. What was the white foam on their backs a sign of? Some horses looked almost white. That was sweat! This was validated by wild horse experts who were observers. Plenty of pictures to prove this.  This roundup was truly one of the most inhumane acts I have ever witnessed.
Patti Williams

1 Comment

  1. Having already heard about the foal with the broken leg & the stallion that was killed – more and more animals killed in the name of the BLM. While we hear over & over that these wild horses and burros are “not native” to the US! How can that be when the horses were already here to greet the Spanish explorers? Somehow that doesnt compute does it? Just recently, it became known to the public (although wild horse advocates knew this for 3 years) that the BLM knowingly sold 1700 wild horses to a kill buyer – Tom Davis (look it up online) It only took 3 years for them to actually admit it but seemingly they did nothing wrong – the BLM employees involved in that corruption seem to still be employed there AND one of them, at least, earned a bonus – for making such a large sale! The really sad thing is that after investigating – it was decided there was no need to DO anything about it. Really, anyone just has to stop & think about the numbers of horses & burros that have been removed from OUR (American Taxpayer) public lands – the Herd Areas that have been zeroed out – the horses that have disappeared from holding facilities. In one instance, the mares that lost their long term holding area & were transferred to a feed lot where over 200 died – because it was a former cattle lot? Or they were fed the wrong diet? Alfalfa is a RICH hay – far from the grasses these horses are used to. The BLM doesnt admit to any wrong – they do what they do because they can! What kind of government agency does this sound like?

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