April 24, 2016 New
RENO, Nevada – Wild horse photographer, Cat Kindsfather, attended the first day a BLM roundup near Gerlach, Nevada on November 19. There she witnessed an exhausted older palomino mare, she named Old Gold, come into a trap after being chased by a helicopter for more than an hour. She took pictures of the terrified horses in the trap pen fleeing from the whips with plastic tied on them and documented the incident in which the wild horse was slammed into the trap corral and must have been injured.
This week, Protect Mustangs learned the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) euthanized the mare on November 21st and claimed it was a “non-gather related” death. The advocacy group believes it is a roundup-related death and needs to be counted as such. Protect mustangs wants America’s indigenous wild horses to remain wild and free on their legally designated ranges. They believe wild horses and burros must be treated humanely – not chased for miles in freezing temperatures putting them at risk of getting pneumonia and not terrorizing them using whips with plastic ends to move them around in crammed trap pens resulting in trauma.
“So many wild horses die because of roundups yet the BLM does not count the deaths accurately,” explains Anne Novak, Executive Director of the California-based Protect Mustangs. “Congress hears that there is only a 1% death rate at ‘gathers’. We want transparency and accountability for all the deaths at roundups. If a horse is chased by a helicopter for miles and miles, then while in a trap pen terrified with plastic tied on to whips, slammed into a metal panel, next shoved into a trailer and transported to another holding facility and is put down a day or two afterwards – it is related to the roundup. If Old Gold had not been rounded up, I bet she would be alive today.”
Kindsfather’s photos document the last moments of freedom for Old Gold.
She also captured the horses’ terror in the trap pen and the mare’s agony against the fence.
“She made it all the way in after being chased by the helicopter but was exhausted,’ states Kindsfather. “In the trap pen, the group of horses were scared by a wrangler using a whip with a plastic bag tied on to it. The horses panicked, ran into the mare and piled up against her, smashing her into the fence. In an already terrifying situation, he continued to use the whip to get the mare up on her feet.”
“The mare could have tied up (had severe muscle spasms) after being chased for miles in the freezing weather and then forced into a crammed pen where she was not walking around enough for her muscles to cool down properly,” says Kerry Becklund, wild horse advocate with Protect Mustangs. “Advocates need to see the mustangs when they are brought in but we are kept away. It’s clear from looking at the photos that the mare was in distress and the whips aggravated her fear. She did not deserve to be put down after surviving this ordeal, she deserved to live.”
“Once the BLM brings in a wild horse it is their responsibility to care for the horse,” states Novak. “We want to know how much the contractor is paid to bring in an older horse who would be put down because it was old. When does the contractor get paid for the horse, once the horse is in the trap pen or later when she is in temporary holding? Old Gold was put down in temporary holding.”
The advocacy group wants to end fiscal irresponsibility seen in roundups without accurate head-counts and without proving the horses thwart the thriving natural ecological balance. Nothing is science-based yet Congress gave more than 75 million dollars to the Wild Horse and Burro Program mostly for roundups and warehousing. Today 40,000 captured American wild horses live in long-term holding at huge taxpayer expense.
“I’m sure some kindhearted person would have adopted the mare to give her a good life despite any lack of body condition,” shares Kindsfather. “It’s too soon to be doing another Calico roundup. The wild horses should remain free, our living gems in a treasured landscape.”
Protect Mustangs is a California-based non-profit whose mission is to inform the public about the mustang crisis, protect America’s wild horses on the range and help those who lost their freedom.