RENO, Nev. – Activists are questioning the rising death toll from a controversial government roundup of wild horses from the range north of Reno.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said 77 mustangs involved in the Calico Mountains Complex gather have died so far – 70 at a Fallon facility where they were taken and the rest at the roundup site.
That’s nearly double the 39 horses that had died when the roundup of 1,922 horses concluded on Feb. 5.
Leaders of the horse advocacy group Cloud Foundation based in Colorado Springs, Colo., are pressing the government to deal with the situation.
“Something has gone way wrong here,” said group spokeswoman Makendra Silverman. “Somehow these horses aren’t transitioning well. It seems to us it’s because they put them through a horrific roundup in the winter,” when wild animals have lower reserves of fat.
According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report in 2008, the BLM has not regularly reported to the public the number of horses killed in roundups.
Worley attributed the deaths mostly to the poor condition of mares sent to Fallon, where the animals are being prepared for adoption or transfer to pastures in the Midwest.
Many mares also are having difficulty making the transition to a diet of hay in Fallon, Worley said.
Silverman questioned the quality of hay, and noted about 40 pregnant mares have miscarried.
The BLM maintains that the roundup was necessary because an overpopulation of horses is harming native wildlife and the range itself, and threatening the mustangs with starvation.