LAS VEGAS – A two-month capture of about 2,500 wild horses from public and private lands in northern Nevada began Monday amid protests that the roundups are unnecessary and inhumane.
Federal officials said the roundup is needed because the 850 square miles of land is overpopulated and could become unlivable to wildlife and livestock within four years.
Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said the agency began gathering horses Monday in the eastern portion of the Black Rock Range, a stretch of mountains more than 100 miles north of Reno, Nev.
A contractor was using two helicopters under BLM supervision to move the horses to corrals, Worley said. The animals were then being trucked to Fallon, Nev., for immunizations and veterinary care, she said.
Long-term plans call for the mustangs to be placed for adoption or sent to holding facilities in the Midwest. The agency said a facility in Reno was full of adoptable horses, making it unclear when the animals gathered in the latest capture could be put up for adoption.
Horse defenders say the use of helicopters to drive horses to corrals is inhumane and risks their injury and death. Opponents also contend winter roundups expose horses to the risk of respiratory illness.
Program director Suzanne Roy of In Defense of Animals said the group questions the timing of the roundup and methods that prevent public monitoring of the roundup.
“It just all smells bad,” she said.
A September count showed more than 3,040 wild horses were living in the area, about three times the land’s capacity, federal officials said.
Without the roundup, the horse population in the area would grow by 20 percent to 27 percent annually, passing 6,000 mustangs within four years, according to BLM. At that point, wildlife and livestock wouldn’t have enough water or forage.