34 wild horses died in recent Nevada roundup, Bureau of Land Management says
RENO, Nev. — Federal officials confirmed Wednesday that 34 wild horses died or were euthanized during a roundup of animals from parched rangeland in Nevada, sparking fresh criticism from horse protection advocates pressing the Obama administration to suspend such operations.
Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said 1,224 wild horses were collected in pens during the Tuscarora wild horse gather that concluded Monday outside the Rock Creek Herd Management Area, or HMA, in northeastern Nevada's Elko County.
In addition to the 34 horses that died, two more were put down after they were found injured by a contractor herding more than two dozen wild horses away from a steep cliff, Worley said Wednesday.
The BLM characterizes its ongoing horse and burro roundups as emergency operations made necessary by drought and overpopulation on public and private lands. For a week in mid-July, the agency hauled 46,000 gallons of water to dehydrated herds in a neighboring HMA.
Opponents say the policy aims to make room for livestock grazing and energy interests in a region where they claim much larger herds of mustangs once flourished.
"How bad does BLM have to get before someone in the Obama administration steps up and says enough is enough?" said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute.
"The latest news only compounds the tragedy clearly being ignored, denied and covered up by the BLM," he said Wednesday.
"If Congress doesn't act soon, the BLM might be successful in not only removing most of the horses from their range, but killing off a large number in the process."
Heyde said horse activists intend to redouble their efforts in Congress to hold BLM accountable for "the growing deaths they are squarely responsible for."
"It's time for Congress to rein in this rogue agency, because clearly the BLM is not capable of reforming itself," added Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.
A bipartisan group of 54 House members signed onto a letter last week that Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, sent to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pleading with him to halt a series of wild horse roundups, including the one in Nevada.
Nevada Democratic Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus were among those who signed the letter that maintains the gathers are based on a "deeply flawed policy."
The letter -- dated Friday, July 30, and made public Monday -- recommended that the National Academy of Sciences be assigned to review the BLM's plan to cull about 12,000 of 38,000 mustangs and burros from herds roaming 10 Western states.
The BLM completed the latest roundup near Tuscarora on Monday, Worley said. She said the gathered horses were shipped without incident from the gather site -- 718 to the Palomino Valley holding facility north of Reno and 1,064 to the Gunnison Prison Wild Horse Training Facility at the Central Utah Correctional Facility, she said.
Worley said the animals were receiving good-quality grass hay, water and veterinarian care as needed.
Interior Department spokeswoman Jordan Montoya said this week that department officials were reviewing the request from the 54 members of Congress regarding future roundups. The agency remains committed to the protection of wild horses and the lands they roam, she said.
-- Scott Sonner, Associated Press
Photo: Wild mustangs run at the Dream Catcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary in Ravendale, Calif., in 2008. Credit: Los Angeles Times