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Week 3 Report by AWHPC's Deniz Bolbol follows here. Deniz' onsite observations made possible through a generous grant from the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
Trapsite July 30 thru Aug 1, 2011 on Hamilton Rd.
BLM reports 59 horses captured (26 stallions, 22 mares and 11 foals - including 1 mare/foal pair who are deemed domestic). BLM reports temperatures reach 87 degrees F during the helicopter stampedes.
BLM said these horses are deemed to be "domestic" and are kept separate. BLM reports the brand inspector picked up 11 domestic horses on August 5 - yet I took this picture of "domestic" horses on August 6, 2011.
The BLM reports that the brand inspector picked up 11 horses who were deemed to be "domestic," a determination BLM based on the presence of brands, "harness burns" on the face or other unspecified "domestic traits." When I asked what would happen to these horses - if they would be put up for auction for possible slaughter - I was told that the brand inspector has a good track record of finding homes for the horses, but if the horses are not claimed and do not find homes - yes, these horses could go up for auction and head for slaughter. There are no laws to protect horses deemed to be "domestic" by the BLM.
BLM reports 31 horses captured (13 stallions, 15 mares and 3 foals). I counted 30 horses captured, including at least 4 foals (1 who was roped). 32 stallions were shipped to Gunnison. 45 horses (28 mares and 17 foals) were shipped to Palomino Valley.
BLM reports temperatures reached 90 degrees F during the helicopter stampedes. BLM claims that the helicopter drove horses from up to 7 miles away into the trap. This is impossible to verify, since the BLM declines to install GPS-equipped video cameras on the helicopters.
Even if true, the horses are forced to run farther than 7 miles due to the way in which the helicopter stampedes horses in circular and zig zag patterns, which adds to the distance covered during the chase. The video below is an example of what it looks like when the helicopter stampedes horses in circles and in zig-zag patterns. Disturbingly, this video also shows the BLM targeting a horse with an old foot injury.
After being stampede for miles in 90 degree weather, this horse was later killed (euthanized) by the BLM.
NOTE: Please excuse the shaky video as I was instructed to lie on the ground during the drive into the trap - and therefore could not use my tripod.
The rest of the horses being chased by the helicopter in this video got away. Only the horse with the old injury was pursued. BLM acknowledged that it targeted this horse for capture due to her visibly malformed leg. BLM provided the pictures below of the mare's healed, but deformed hoof which the agency and the USDA APHIS vet concluded was reason enough to kill this mare. You can see by the photo and the video above that the mare was in good body condition and had no difficulty moving - or rather running from the helicopter and wranglers. Yet instead of letting her go with the rest of the group, she was chased relentlessly, captured and then shot by BLM due to her pre-existing injury.
Deniz' Log for August 5, 2011
4:02 a.m. BLM left White Pine Park to drive to the trap.
5:45 a.m. Arrive at the trap. 37 degrees F.
6:17 a.m. Can hear the helicopter flying from the southwest direction.
6:37 a.m. Helicopter pilot radios that he is 10 minutes from driving horses to the trap.
6:45 a.m. First run: 11 horses 7:17 a.m. Helicopter heads southwest again - flies so far away can't see or hear the helicopter.
At 7:52 a.m. we still cannot hear the helicopter.
8:14 a.m. Can intermittently hear the helicopter to the west ... 8:22 a.m. helicopter heard from north-west.
8:25 a.m. Helicopter comes in to refuel. 9:15 a.m. Helicopter leaves and heads north.
At 9:50 a.m. we can see a band - possibly 7 horses - being stampeded towards the trap.
10:09 a.m. Second run: 3 horses captured - the helicopter fractured the band and most of the horses got away. The helicopter flies far away.
10:29 a.m. Helicopter says he's 10 minutes from driving horses into the trap. Temperature 84 degrees F - according to BLM - it feels much hotter sitting in the desert sun.
10:36 a.m. Third run: 6 horses captured, including 1 foal. 10:42 a.m. Fourth run: 2 horses captured, including 1 foal. Helicopter refuels. 12:00 p.m. Fifth run: 8 horses captured, including 1 foal and wranglers roped 1 foal. Helicopter refuels.
12:38 p.m. BLM reports it is 89 degrees F.
12:51 p.m. Helicopter radios that he is 10 minutes from driving horses to the trap. The helicopter stampedes horses.
1:10 p.m. All horses escape capture, except 1 horse who is roped by wranglers after being stampeded for an exceptionally long time. This horse will be killed by the BLM - see this horse's sad story above.
1:15 p.m. BLM says the roundup is over for the day.
BLM reports 52 horses were captured (20 stallions, 22 mares and 10 foals). I counted 52 horses captured, including at least 9 foals ranging in age from 2-3 weeks to 4-months. One mare was killed today (this was reported to on-the-ground observers on the 5th). BLM reports the temperatures reached 87 degrees F and claimed that the helicopter's farthest distance for driving horses was 6 miles. There is no way to verify this distance as BLM refuses to install GPS-equipped, real-time video cameras in the helicopters.
The trap site moved to "Cherry Creek" - located between Butte Mountains and the Cherry Creek Range in the Triple B HMA. Laura Leigh was the only other observer today. After much complaining, BLM allowed us to observe the roundup from a location with much improved visibility. We were able to document the horses entering the chute and trap. Also, after many requests and complaints, the BLM provided water to the tiny foals who are kept in the trap pen all day.
The BLM allows the roundup contractor (Sun J) to stampede the horses so long and fast that often the tiny foals are unable to keep up. Despite running at full speed and running literally for their lives, the foals just can't keep up. It's no wonder that foals account for the majority of the fatalities at the Triple B roundup to date. The BLM must implement a standard operating procedure for all roundups that horses shall not be run faster than the slowest horse in the group.
There is no need to push the animals this hard and create more stress to an already awful situation. Today at the Jackies Butte roundup in Oregon two foals were killed - the BLM described the death, " A foal collapsed and died on the range on the way to the trap...The conclusion is that the horse had a broken rib and punctured lung. It was probably kicked either earlier in the day or on the move to the trap."
Deniz' Log for August 4, 2011
4:05 a.m. BLM left White Pine Park to head to the trap.
Arrived at trap at 5:50 a.m. Temperatures in the high 40's. The helicopter is already flying.
6:34 a.m. Can hear the helicopter on the other side of the mountain range.
6:40 a.m. Pilot, Josh Hellyer, radios that he is 2 miles out.
6:56 a.m. First run: 5 horses including 1 very young foal
6:58 a.m. Helicopter is chasing horses.
7:08 a.m. Second run: 5 horses including 1 foal. Helicopter continues to chase another group of horses all over the valley floor.
7:23 a.m. Third run: 5 horses including 1 foal. Helicopter leaves to find more horses.
7:35 a.m. Helicopter is chasing another group of horses off in the distance. There appear to be 7 horses in the group.
7:49 a.m. Fourth run: 6 horses including 1 foal ... one horse did not run into the trap and stands outside of the trap watching to see if his family will return to him. The BLM says they will leave this stallion. The helicopter refuels and then heads far north - out of sight. BLM believes they have captured a horse with a freeze brand. We later learn that BLM believes a number of the horses caught are "domestics" and the brand inspector will be called. If these horses are not claimed, they will either find homes or be put up for auction possibly for slaughter. Helicopter has now looped around and is now very far south - can't hear the helicopter any longer.
8:43 a.m. Helicopter indicates he is 10 minutes from capturing another group of horses.
8:49 a.m. Fifth run: 14 horses including 2 foals.
9 a.m. Sixth run: 1 grey mare is chased into the trap but her foal gets away - wranglers rope the foal and capture her/him.
9:27 a.m. Helicopter indicates he is 10 minutes from capturing another group of horses.
9:33 a.m. Seventh run: 4 horses captured, including one small (4-5 week old) foal. The helicopter refuels.
9:55 a.m. After much complaining, BLM puts water in the foal pen. The foals will be kept in the pen all day - and taken to temporary holding in the last trailer that leaves the trap.
10:23 a.m. Eighth run: 6 horses captured, including one tiny foal. 2 more foals are roped and captured.
10:43 a.m. Ninth run: 3 adult horses captured.
11:15 a.m. Helicopter is running horses.
11:30 a.m. Helicopter indicates he's 10 minutes out from driving the horses into the trap.
11:39 a.m. Helicopter continues fracturing the horses and all escape.
BLM reports 31 horses captured (7 stallions, 16 mares, 8 foals). I counted 25 horses approach the trap, including at least 8 foals - however, my view was obstructed. 42 horses (34 mares and 8 foals) were shipped to Palomino Valley. BLM continues to impede visibility for public observation of roundup.
Helicopter stampedes horses into chute leading to trap. Horses are below the ridgeline so that observers cannot see what happens when the horses enter the chute and the trap itself. Photo by Deniz Bolbol.
As the massive Triple B roundup continues - a smaller roundup in Oregon's Jackies Butte and Three Fingers HMAs began this week. The decades-old Cattoor Livestock roundup company is conducting that roundup, whereas a new, less-experienced contractor called "Sun J" is conducting the Triple B roundup. The difference in standard operating procedures between the two roundups (and two different contractors) is made abundantly clear in the treatment of the foals.
"Gather operations were stopped at approx. 11:30 AM when temps reached approx. 85 degrees... As a SOP 'all foals' were watered individually by hand (bucket) before being released into the pen with their mothers. All foals drank some water with the amount being dependent on their size and age. This was done to ensure the foals were hydrated before being released with the wet mares in the pen to be paired back up."
No such protocol for the handling of vulnerable foals exists at Triple B. At Triple B, 5 of the 7 reported deaths have been foals. This is not surprising given what I have witnessed over the past 3 days. At the Triple B roundup, horses have been stampeded in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees F.
The BLM allows the contractor to run the horses so long and fast that often exhausted foals, who have been chased for miles by the helicopter at full speed, are unable to keep up with their families. The inability of the helicopter pilot to effectively drive horses into the trap adds countless miles to the fast helicopter chase.
BLM reports horses were run 7 miles yesterday, August 2 - there is no way to verify this because the BLM refuses to install real-time cameras with GPS on the helicopters. This mileage, provided by the pilot, likely does not include the excessive zig-zag chasing which can add miles to the chase. The BLM representatives in charge of the roundup (Ben Noyes for the past two days and before that Ruth Thompson) have consistently failed to call off a bad run in order to minimize stress and danger to the wild horses being stampeded.
Repeatedly, the BLM representatives allow the helicopter pilot to stampede the horses in a manner that results in unnecessary and excessive running, with horses usually running at full speeds, often past the trap multiple times and running up and down the valley floor in zig-zag and circular patterns.
The pilot, presumably Josh Hellyer (BLM is now declining to confirm the pilot's name), consistently scatters horses and chases them in circles or in zig-zag patterns. Small foals running at full speeds regularly fall behind their family unable to keep up during the miles-long run. Once horses are captured, all of the foals, and many adults remain in the trap until the roundup is concluded for the day. This means that the foals and other horses have no access to water for hours after the long, hard helicopter stampede. I have repeatedly asked for water to be provided to these foals, but my request goes unanswered.
Deniz' Log for August 3, 2011
Temperatures today ranged from mid-60's to mid-80's. There were thunderstorms and heavy rain after the roundup ended at 1 p.m. 4 a.m. Met BLM to drive to trap site. 5:50 a.m. Arrived at trap - contractor had not yet arrived.
Again, I asked for the name of the pilot flying the helicopter and again I am told "If you want information on the contractor ask the contractor." I am also told the contractor "won't talk to you."
7:18 a.m. First run: 5 adults stampeded to trap; young foal got away. Wranglers went out and roped foal and brought him/her in. This is the first run I have witnessed since arriving at the roundup the helicopter pilot didn't scatter and/or chase horses in zig-zag manner.
8:11 a.m. Second run: 8 horses captured including 2 very little foals and 1 older foal.
8:40-9:00 a.m. Third run: Pilot chases 2 adults and 1 foal - scattering the family. Both adults get away. Wranglers rope the foal (driving out the trailer to bring him/her in.) BLM claims both adults are "studs" - there is no way to verify this. If this the 2 adults were both studs, this means the helicopter likely scattered the family before the chase came into public view. They kept the foal in the trailer until we left the trap after 1:30 p.m.
10:05 a.m. Fourth run: Pilot stampedes 7 horses - horses scattered. 2 captured. 10:14 a.m. Fifth run: 5 horses captured, including 1 foal. 11:31 a.m. Sixth run: 3 horses captured. This was a long, messy run. BLM reported temperature was 86 degrees. 12:40 p.m. Seventh run: 7 horses captured, including 2 foals.
BLM reports 37 horses captured (7 stallions, 22 mares, 8 foals). I counted 42 horses approach the trap, including at least 5 foals. This indicates that 5 horses escaped. BLM also reporting the death of a foal yesterday, bringing overall death toll to 7, including 5 foals total. BLM is reporting that the foal who died yesterday didn't make it to the trap in the helicopter chase. The wranglers went out and roped him and her brought him/her in. The foal died on the trailer. 36 studs were shipped to Gunnison Prison facility.
The BLM is making a mockery of "public observation" and "transparency" by placing observers so far away or in areas with obstructed views, thereby making it impossible to see or document what is happening.
Today, the trap site was moved to a new location which means the "public observation area" changed. The location for the "observation area" was chosen by Ben Noyes, the wild horse specialist for the BLM's Ely District Schell Field Office. Mr. Noyes was the Contract Officers Representative (COR) today and, as such, was responsible for the operation.
This new "observation area" was set far back on a hill which impeded my ability to document the roundup - because much of the helicopter stampede took place below the ridge-line of the hill. The BLM public relations representatives refused to ask Mr. Noyes if the "observation area" could be moved to improve visibility so that the one observer in attendance today (Deniz) would be able to see the entire trap (most of which was not visible with the exception of the last three holding pens).
Unnecessary Stress Caused to Horses Due to Poor Roundup Techniques
Based on what I could observe, it was obvious that the BLM roundup contractor "Sun J" creates unnecessary stress and trauma for the horses during the miles-long chase by inappropriately maneuvering the helicopter. This pilot, presumably it is Josh Hellyer (when I asked to confirm who the pilot was today, the BLM PR person said she did not know and would not get that information for me - in fact, she suggested I call Sun J to find out), consistently drives the helicopter in a manner which scatters horse groups being chased and either drives the horses in circles or zig-zag patterns causing the horses to run far longer. Of the seven times the helicopter chased horses to the trap today, not one was a "clean" run - meaning each and every time horses scattered and unnecessarily ran over the same terrain multiple times. This excessive chase is especially hard on small foals - several of whom struggled to try to keep up with their families, but due to the long stampede fell behind. (Please see video below, beginning at 3:15 for footage of one poor little foal trying - unsuccessfully - to keep us with his or her family in the helicopter chase.) While temperatures were in the mid to high 80's - I cannot emphasize how hot the Nevada desert sun feels. Many horses came in lathered with perspiration and a number of adult horses and all of the foals who were brought in as early at 6:40 a.m. were stuck in the trap pens all day - until 2 p.m. - without any access to water.
Deniz' Log for August 2, 2011
4:10 a.m. I met with BLM public relations representatives at the White Pine Park in Ely. Our caravan drove 2 hours to the trap site, which was located in the northern portion the Triple B Complex. There were no other observers present.
6:17 a.m. Arrived near the trap site, but we were held back as the helicopter stampeded the first family to the trap.
6:40 a.m. First run, 4 horses were captured.
6:46 a.m. Helicopter left to find more horses. For more than an hour the helicopter flies over a specific area of the mountain.
7:54 a.m. Second run, 8 horses were stampeded towards the trap, but due to my obstructed view I cannot confirm that all 8 are captured. I presume they were.
8:15 a.m. The helicopter leaves going in the opposite direction looking for horses.
By 9:15 a.m. I can see the helicopter in the distance and that the horses he is chasing are scattering. 9:47 a.m. Third run, 3 horses are captured.
10:12 a.m. Fourth run, 5 horses, including a small foal, are driven into the trap.
10:25 a.m. Fifth run, 7 horses, including another small foal, are captured. Shortly after this family is trapped, adult horses are loaded on the trailer to be taken to temporary holding pens. It takes 20 minutes to load the horses. A number of adult horses and all of the foals remain at the trap - without access to water.
12:19 p.m. Sixth run, 9 horses. This run is a fiasco with the horses scattering and being chased in zig-zag patterns. A Palomino escapes the capture.
12:33 p.m. Seventh run, 6 horses, including another small foal, are captured. This again was a messy stampede with what appeared to be the stallion escaping capture. Despite having the opportunity to run away, the stallion stands near the trap where his entire family is confined - he waits for at least 20 minutes until the helicopter returns. (I hope to post this video in the next few days.)
2 p.m. We left the trap site once the helicopter quit flying and after the adult horses and foals were loaded into the transport trailers.
32 studs were shipped to the Gunnison Prison facility and 23 mares and 17 foals shipped to Palomino Valley. Today's roundup was short and uneventful (see video below).
However the BLM's new "protocols" are worth mentioning as they further obstruct and impede the public's ability to document this taxpayer-funded operation:
1. Prohibit observers from hearing BLM-contractor communications. At previous roundups, observers were permitted to listen to the BLM and roundup contractor communications via radio. This was very helpful in understanding what was happening with the roundup.
For example if a foal was left behind on the range, or if there was a problem out in the area where the helicopter was stampeding horses, observers could hear these radio communications and figure out what was going on. Under the "new protocol," however, the BLM Public Relations person handling public observers wears an earpiece so the observers cannot hear the radio communications. The PR person then relays to the observers what s/he thinks they need to know. This new censorship has the effect of further impeding the public's ability to understand what is taking place at the roundup.
2. Restrict observers from stepping out of "observation area." Previously BLM PR representatives would allow observers to move 5 or 10 feet to the right or left of the observation area in order to be able to see and document the roundup. Today, despite being obstructed from videotaping the loading of the horses at the trap, BLM PR representatives refused to allow me to take even a few steps out of the observation box to videotape the handling of the horses.
3. Restrict observers from moving after operation is completed. After the horses were loaded on the trailer and driven away from the trap site, BLM PR handlers would not allow me to leave the observation area. They claimed that a new "protocol" required the Contract Officers Representative (COR) to radio her approval for observers to move out of the box. (The COR is the wild horse and burro specialist in charge of the capture operation.)
Today, we had to wait for 10 minutes until the COR permitted us to leave. This was very frustrating, as I had requested that we follow the trucks from the trap site to the temporary location facility so that I could document the unloading of horses into the temporary corrals. The COR today was Ruth Thompson of the Ely District Office. Ms. Thompson declined to make herself available to speak with me today, despite the shortened work day and the capture of just 8 horses.
Deniz' Log for August 1, 2011
4 a.m. I met with BLM public relations representatives at the White Pine Park in Ely. Our caravan drove 2.5 hours to the trap site, which was located on Hamilton Road in the northwestern corner of the Triple B Complex. There were no other observers present.
6:30 a.m. After briefly stopping at temporary holding, we arrived at trap site. Temperature was 59 degrees F. We could hear the helicopter in the far distance.
6:39 a.m. the helicopter was flying in a manner which indicated he likely was chasing horses. I was told Josh Hellyer was the pilot today. 6:51 a.m. It's obvious the pilot has horses - due to the brush and terrain I cannot see the horses.
7:11 a.m. I see the horses briefly.
7:16 a.m. 8 horses are driven into the trap (if you watch the video you will also see the Judas horse run into the trap, this is a domestic horse used to get wild horses to follow him into the trap).
7:25 a.m. The contractors begin to load the 8 horses into the trailer to move them to temporary holding. It took 20 minutes to load 8 horses.
7:47 a.m. We are allowed to leave the observation area. Despite leaving more than 10 minutes after the trailer, I arrived at temporary holding before the trailer was unload. Once unloaded, the 8 horses, which appeared to be two family bands, were left in one pen for some time before being separated forever. Tomorrow or Wed., the stallions will be shipped to the prison in Utah; the mares and foals will be sent to the Palomino Valley Center near Reno. They will never see each other again.
At temporary holding there were 35-40 studs in one pen and 15-20 mares in another pen.